Dispute logo



Small Claims Court

Suing for Emotional Distress [Guide 2022]

Updated July 22nd 2022

4 min read

Although emotional distress isn’t visible like a physical injury, the effects can be just as devastating for victims. If you’re the victim of emotional distress caused as a result of negligence or intent by someone else, you are entitled to file a lawsuit in court and receive damages if the jury or judge rules in...

Suing for Emotional Distress [Guide 2022]

Suing for Emotional Distress [Guide 2022]


Kaylin Lo


Dispute is the easiest & most accurate small claims platform with affordable ways to resolve every dispute.

Although emotional distress isn’t visible like a physical injury, the effects can be just as devastating for victims.

If you’re the victim of emotional distress caused as a result of negligence or intent by someone else, you are entitled to file a lawsuit in court and receive damages if the jury or judge rules in your favor.

It’s easier to win an emotional distress lawsuit if you are injured. However, in recent years, more victims of emotional trauma have won cases without being injured, most notably victims of defamation, sexual assault, and repeated harassment that caused psychological harm.

In this article, we’ll discuss common types of emotional distress and how to sue if you’ve been the victim of emotional distress.

Common Types of Emotional Distress

By definition, emotional distress is an emotional response someone can experience resulting from an occurrence, event, or memory of a particular event. The hallmark symptoms of emotional distress include anxiety and depression.

Some of the most common types of emotional distress include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety disorders
  • General pain and suffering
  • Depression after an injury or incident
  • Humiliation
  • Mental anguish
  • Diminished quality of life

What Kind of Lawsuits Can You File for Emotional Distress?

There are two types of emotional distress claims you can file in court. They include:

Negligent infliction of emotional distress

This occurs when the defendant in the case unintentionally causes the victim emotional distress whether the victim was injured or not. For example, if the defendant negligently caused an auto accident that did not injure the parent in the car but killed their child, the parent can file a claim in court to recover emotional distress damages. Even though the parent did not physically suffer from the accident, the mental distress and pain of losing a child can justify a lawsuit on the grounds of emotional distress.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress

This type of emotional distress allows the victim to seek damages caused when the defendant intentionally inflicts serious emotional distress by behaving in an “extreme and outrageous” manner toward the victim. A few examples of intentional infliction of emotional distress include sex discrimination, racial insults, and actions that threaten the victim’s physical well-being, although an injury is not necessary to file a claim.

How to File an Emotional Distress Lawsuit

Filing a lawsuit for emotional damages is a serious decision, so you’ll want to be prepared before you take your case to court. Although you can consider filing a lawsuit in small claims court or with the help of an online filing service, most states put a cap on damages awarded at $10,000.

Because most emotional distress cases are difficult to win without injuries, taking the case to an experienced attorney who specializes in emotional distress lawsuits is usually the best course of action.

Document emotional distress

Any evidence you can provide the court that details your emotional distress is helpful to your case. Record how the incident or incidents affected your emotional health. Include any medical records or bills that show mental health treatment or counseling was required to recover.

Consider using an electronic health monitor to track your sleeping habits and heart rate if they’ve been negatively affected by your distress. The more evidence you can provide, the better your chances are of receiving damages.

Speak with an attorney

Speak with a reputable emotional distress attorney in your area to receive proper legal advice and assistance. It can be difficult to win these types of cases without the help of an attorney on your side.

Send a Demand Letter

It is important to communicate with the defendant that you demand payment. This form of communication is also known as a demand letter and should be sent before filing in court. Many cases are resolved through strongly worded demand letters; however, it is advisable to send one on professional letterhead. Online services like Dispute offer help in writing a demand letter. Depending on the package you purchase, you can either have a professional write the entire letter or use our DIY services to write it yourself.

File the lawsuit

After sending a demand letter, the next step is filling out a Statement of Claim. This is the official state small claims form. For this form, you'll need the following information:

  1. Reason for the lawsuit
  2. Claim amount ($)
  3. Name and address of the person/business that is being sued

Filing a Statement of Claim against a business can be tricky. If you are suing a business, you need to look up the certificate of doing business and make sure you fill out the form corresponding to the county where the defendant lives, works or does business. The forms can get tricky and mistakes prevent your case from filing. So doing research is essential. Experts at Dispute file paperwork daily, and a full support team can help you find answers to your questions

How Much Can You Recover in an Emotional Distress Case?

Damages recovered in an emotional distress case can vary greatly on a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, though, you can typically recover two to five times the costs of medical bills; that includes the cost of medication and therapy. You may also be entitled to recoup lost wages from missed days of work due to your emotional distress.

Get Dispute to file your small claims case online today.
Win back the money you deserve.

Related articles

How to Sue Someone for Giving You Herpes [2022 Guide]

If someone gave you this STI without your consent, you aren't can pursue legal action.

· 8 min read