emotional distress settlement amounts

How Much Are Emotional Distress Settlement Amounts Worth?

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 6 minutes

How Much Are Emotional Distress Settlement Amounts Worth?

If you’ve been severely emotionally distressed due to another person’s violative actions, the law may entitle you to compensation — but you may be wondering how much you can expect from emotional distress settlement amounts. To understand, let’s first take a closer look at emotional distress claims in general, and we’ll then explore some settlement-related issues in more detail.

Claims for the Infliction of Emotional Distress: the Basics

There are two types of emotional distress claims: intentional and negligent.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is the same as negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) in all respects, except for one: the intention of the offender is central to liability for the claim. So let’s examine an NIED claim as the baseline.

You — the victim — can sue and recover compensation for NIED if you can prove the following elements:

  • The defendant violates the standard of care
  • Thus causing emotional injury to the plaintiff.

Can I claim compensation for psychological damage alone?

State law varies quite a bit with physical injury requirements:

  • The Impact Rule in some states requires that there has been at least a minor physical injury to the plaintiff as well, in order for there to be a compensable emotional injury.
  • The Zone of Danger Rule in some states does not require that there be an actual physical injury, but it does require that the plaintiff have been in an area where they could have potentially suffered actual physical harm (even if they didn’t get injured).
  • The Foreseeability Rule in most states requires no physical injury or even immediate risk of physical injury. All that is required is that the plaintiff show that the defendant should have been able to reasonably foresee that their actions would lead to emotional injury.

As the law varies, it’s important to consult with an attorney who can help guide you in accordance with local rules and regulations.

What is an example of an emotional distress claim?

Suppose that you’re walking on a sidewalk, when a car suddenly swerves onto the sidewalk and nearly hits you. You jump away and are terrified. It turns out that the driver is an old enemy, who has a longstanding feud with you. They laugh at your reaction and drive away. It turns out that they weren’t trying to hit you, but they just wanted to terrify you — which they accomplished.

For years after, you are emotionally distressed. Walking around the city makes you anxious, and you stay inside more as a result. Your life has been seriously impacted. You could ostensibly sue the driver for IIED, as all the elements appear to be satisfied here (so long as the incident did not occur in an “Impact Rule” state).

How Much Should You Expect from a Settlement? Understanding the Influencing Factors.

There is no standard “expectation” when it comes to emotional distress settlement amounts. Every case is different. You might experience substantial losses, for example, while another victim could have experienced smaller losses. Alternatively, you might have a more clear cut case for liability, which could lead to a better settlement offer.

Factors that can increase the likelihood of a favorable settlement offer include:

  • The defendant is amicable and willing to negotiate, not hostile
  • The evidence and legal liability is clearly in your favor
  • The defendant is concerned about the negative publicity of a lawsuit, and would rather keep the proceedings private
  • As a plaintiff, you are sympathetic and easy-to-relate to — the jury may therefore lean in your direction
  • Your attorney has strong experience in the local courts
  • And more

Emotional distress settlement amounts are a reflection of the “certainty” of the claim’s liability should it go to trial, as well as the damages. Let’s use a quick example to clarify how it all works.

Suppose that you argue that you suffered $100,000 in damages for your emotional distress claim. You make your arguments to the defendant. It seems — to both parties — that you would have a 50% chance of the court finding liability in your favor. That being said, if they do find liability, your damages claim is 100% accurate and the defendant does not dispute that.

Given the above facts and percentages, a “fair” settlement offer would be $50,000. It accounts for the uncertainty of litigation, and it helps both parties avoid the time and resource-commitment of trial.

How an Injury Lawyer Can Help

Whether you have an emotional distress claim, or any other plaintiffs’-side claim for which you are seeking compensation, it is extremely helpful to have a legal advocate on your side throughout the process. Many people don’t know that attorneys take on a variety of different duties and responsibilities, and so they’re even more valuable to a dispute than one may initially realize.

These responsibilities include:

  • Collecting and preserving evidence
  • Investigating the accident, using expert assistance if necessary
  • Speaking to third-parties (insurers, police, defendants, etc.) on the client’s behalf
  • Negotiating a potential settlement with the defendant
  • Navigating court procedures, hearings, and other processes
  • Developing a persuasive argument and executing a comprehensive case strategy
  • Pursuing the dispute all the way through to trial, if necessary
  • Securing and distributing the payout after it has been awarded
  • And more

If you’ve been physically injured and/or experienced significant emotional distress as a result of someone else’s actions, then you might be entitled to sue and recover compensation. Even if your case doesn’t go to trial, there is a possibility that you could obtain substantial compensation as emotional distress settlement amounts can vary quite a bit. That being said, it’s important to talk to an attorney who can help you navigate the claims process.

Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 to get connected to an attorney in our legal network in just 10 minutes or less. Our network attorneys offer free consultations, with no obligation to continue if you decide against it — so there’s no downside to calling in and getting started! During this initial consultation, you’ll have an opportunity to talk about your case, have it evaluated, and learn about potential next steps.

We look forward to assisting you.

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