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Suing for emotional distress in Wisconsin

When & how to make a legal claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress

The purpose of negligent infliction of emotional distress claims is to provide financial compensation allowing the loved ones of an accident victim to recover from the emotional anguish and shock they suffered as the result of witnessing the accident and/or the aftermath.

Wisconsin law puts limits on who can sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress and under what circumstances.

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Building a successful emotional distress case

In Wisconsin, in order to file a legal claim for negligent emotional distress the law requires three conditions:

  1. The victim was severely injured or killed in the accident
  2. The claimant is a close relative of the victim
  3. The claimant witnessed the accident or its immediate aftermath

If an individual has the right to file a claim for emotional distress, they will further need to prove:

  • The person at fault for the accident behaved negligently (for example driving drunk or speeding)
  • Their negligence caused the accident and the victim’s injuries
  • The claimant suffered emotional distress

Proving negligence and proving emotional distress are not often straightforward or accepted without protest. Your chances of a successful emotional distress claim are much better with help from an experienced attorney.

What is emotional distress from a legal standpoint?

The legal definition of emotional distress is:

“a highly unpleasant emotional reaction (as anguish, humiliation or fury) which results from another’s conduct and for which damages may be sought”1

What qualifies as emotional distress?

Examples of emotional distress include:

  • Severe anxiety or anger
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Humiliation, shame or guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Seeking isolation
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Obsessive compulsive behavior
  • Physical symptoms with no medical diagnosis such as chronic headaches, pain, digestive problems

Emotional distress symptoms can manifest in different ways for different people, and this is not meant to be a comprehensive list.

How do you prove emotional distress?

Proving emotional distress can be difficult, especially without qualified legal representation. There are certain things you can do to strengthen an emotional distress claim:

  • If you are experiencing emotional distress symptoms, seek medical attention to rule out other causes.
  • Keep a daily journal of your emotions and symptoms. Record every way your life is negatively affected by emotional distress.
  • Seek treatment from a psychologist or other mental health professional. They can then provide verification of your mental and emotional condition.
  • Record all costs associated with your emotional anguish, including therapy bills and lost wages.
  • Gather evidence proving the severity of the accident and the victim’s suffering.
  • Provide testimony from friends and family members who have witnessed the emotional impact the accident had on you.

We strongly urge people considering an emotional distress claim to discuss their situation with a seasoned personal injury attorney. Wisconsin personal injury laws can affect your outcome and final settlement amount.

Steve Caya works on a no-win, no-fee basis and offers free claim evaluations. Our law firm is in Janesville, but we’ll come to you anywhere in the state if you can’t make it to our office.

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How much can you claim for emotional distress?

As with other types of personal injury claims, the amount of financial compensation you receive varies widely depending on the facts of your case the the quality of your attorney.

The more severe the emotional distress, and the more extreme the accident, the greater the value of an emotional distress claim. For example, a mother who witnesses her child’s death after he is struck by a drunk driver has a much stronger claim than a person who witnessed their spouse suffer a broken wrist in a low-impact car accident.

Insurance companies will always try to minimize the amount they pay out to claimants, and they’re especially reluctant to compensate claims for general damages – the type that can’t be quantified as easily as lost wages or a medical bill.

They’ll likely dispute your emotional distress claim using tactics like claiming your mental health issues were pre-existing, claiming the accident or the victim’s injuries were not that severe, or claiming the victim was partly to blame for the accident.

Steve Caya spend the first decade of his career working for insurance companies, and he understands how they work – and what it takes to make them pay.

Emotional distress lawyer serving all of Wisconsin

If you believe you have the right to file a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, take the first step by getting a professional assessment of your case. There’s no obligation, and there’s never a fee unless we’re able to win compensation for your injuries.

Contact injury attorney Steve Caya online or call our law offices today to request a free consult.