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Emotional Distress Damages in a Personal Injury Case

Colburn Law

Emotionally Distressed Woman
Emotional distress is a very real issue after a traumatic personal injury accident. A severe car crash, act of violence, dog attack, workplace fall, or other incident can impose significant emotional scarring and mental anguish. The psychological trauma the victim of someone else’s negligence suffers is not a harm the state of Washington ignores. It is possible to seek compensation for emotional distress in a personal injury case in the state.

Types of Emotional Distress Damages in Washington

Emotional distress is a type of injury that falls under the umbrella of pain and suffering. Pain and suffering refers to a group of noneconomic, or general, damages. Noneconomic damages are those that do not affect the victim financially, but rather emotionally or mentally. They are damages most accident victims share, rather than more specific damages relating to what the accident cost. Many different damages can qualify as pain and suffering.

  • Mental anguish
  • Psychological distress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Inconvenience
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of society and companionship
  • Destruction of the parent-child relationship
  • Injury to reputation
  • Humiliation
  • Lost quality or enjoyment of life

The Washington civil courts permit victims of personal injury accidents to seek financial compensation for their emotional damages. The victim will need proof of noneconomic losses, however, such as testimony from family members and medical experts. Hiring a lawyer to tell the victim’s story before a judge or jury can result in a more sympathetic response and a higher emotional distress award than trying to handle the case alone.

Limits on Emotional Distress Damages in Washington State

Many states limit the amount of compensation a victim can receive for noneconomic damages such as emotional distress and mental anguish.

One such cap in Washington exists if the personal injury claim is against the parents of a child that willfully or maliciously caused someone else injury. This cap does not allow emotional distress damages to exceed $5,000. Washington law forbids parties from making the jury aware of these caps on damages. They will only apply to emotional distress compensation after the jury’s decision, if the jury awards more than what the cap permits. Understanding the specific cap on your case may take help from an attorney to calculate.

How to File an Emotional Distress Claim in Seattle

Washington’s pain and suffering laws are largely in favor of the victim, or plaintiff. However, plaintiffs must obey specific filing guidelines and deadlines for the courts to hear their cases. If you wish to file a pain and suffering claim in Seattle, you must bring your claim within three years of your accident or discovery of injury. Missing this statute of limitations generally means losing the right to file. You will file with the civil courts in the county where your accident occurred.

Although you can file a claim solely for pain and suffering damages, the odds of winning are lower than in cases involving physical injuries or economic losses as well. If you witnessed someone else’s accident, for example, it can be much more difficult to win an emotional distress claim than if you were the person who suffered the injury. For the most part, the courts will award pain and suffering damages as part of a larger award for both economic and noneconomic losses. Speak to a lawyer in Bellevue or Seattle about your specific case for more information.