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Seeking Justice for Emotional Distress in Injury Cases

Not all injuries are visible or physical. The events leading up to a personal injury case, regardless of whether the resulting damage is minor or severe, can leave injury victims emotionally and psychologically scarred for life. For this reason, personal injury victims who suffer emotional distress may demand compensation for their pain and suffering.

However, emotional damage is challenging to bring up in mediation or court because it’s not easily identifiable, like a broken limb, bruises, or lacerations. Moreover, a victim must meet the legal criteria of local emotional distress laws and provide credible evidence and testimonies from qualified experts to prove emotional injury. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the merits of compensating emotional pain and suffering, the laws surrounding it, and how to seek justice for emotional distress in various personal injury cases.

Why Emotional Damage Matters in a Personal Injury Case

Personal injury victims are entitled to seek damages in emotional distress cases because the emotional and psychological toll of a traumatic incident can negatively impact their lives. Those who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or chronic anxiety because of a terrible car accident, for example, may become incapable of working or enjoying life as they used to. 

The real-life effects of emotional injury can be permanent and far-reaching, impacting not only the victims but also their friends and families. This is why federal and state laws recognize the  importance and need for compensation and justice. 

Emotional Distress Laws in South Carolina

In a personal injury case, the defense will do its best to minimize the defendant’s liability. They will try to convince the jury that the victim’s injuries are not as severe as they claim. The defense will also aim to reduce the damages the judge awards the victim. One way to do this is to disprove claims of emotional and psychological distress.

How do you fight against these efforts to diminish your pain and suffering?

Legal Conditions

Firstly, you need to meet the criteria to sue for emotional distress. South Carolina recognizes two types of emotional distress: negligent and intentional.

  • Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED) - Negligence caused the emotional injury. Victims may sue for NIED if:

  • The defendant had a legal duty to act with care.

  • The defendant failed to fulfill that duty.

  • The victim suffered emotional distress because of the defendant’s failure. 

  • The victim suffered severe emotional distress.

  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) - The emotional harm to a person was intentional. Victims may sue for IIED if:

  • The defendant committed outrageous and extreme conduct to harm the victim.

  • The victim suffered emotional distress as a result.

  • The victim suffered severe emotional distress.

Proving Emotional Distress

Next, victims must provide evidence to support their claims of emotional distress. They must prove that:

  • The incident that caused the emotional injury was traumatic.

  • The emotional pain was a direct result of the incident.

  • The emotional distress significantly disrupts the plaintiff’s life.

  • The emotional distress wasn’t because of a pre-existing condition or other stressors.

Statute of Limitations

If you or someone you love suffers emotional damage in a personal injury case, you must act quickly to get justice and compensation for your pain and suffering. 

South Carolina has a three-year statute of limitations for emotional distress. Victims must file a lawsuit within three years from the date the injury occurred. Otherwise they forfeit any right to demand damages from the defendant. 

How Much Can Victims Receive in Damages?

Emotional distress falls under non-economic damages, which is harder to quantify. In contrast, economic damages like medical expenses and lost salary due to missed work are easily calculated. 

The South Carolina Supreme Court has declared that pain and suffering have no market price, and, as such, there’s neither a limit nor cap, no standard for measuring its equivalent damages. The SC leaves the decision to the jury and the court based on the unique circumstances of each personal injury case. 

There are, however, exceptions for medical malpractice claims and cases against the government (as of 2024):

Type of Personal Injury Case

Maximum Non-Economic Damages

Medical Malpractice

$350,000 per defendant

$1.05 million in total for all defendants

(per occurrence and dependent on what type of medical professional caused the harm)

Claims Against the Government

$300,000 for all damages (per occurrence)

Seek Legal Counsel from Attorney Andrew Littlejohn Johnson for Experienced Guidance in Personal Injury Cases.

Emotional distress laws exist to protect defendants from abusive claims, but, more importantly, they give victims due process to seek compensatory damages and even punitive damages. 

Winning emotional distress cases is challenging for plaintiffs: many have to live with their pain and suffering while enduring the lengthy legal process of seeking emotional damages from insurance companies and the defendants. The best way to ease these burdens is to consider discussing your situation with a legal professional to understand your options.

Littlejohn Law LLC is a personal injury practice serving clients from the Upstate to the Midlands in South Carolina. We represent clients for medical malpractice, auto accidents, premises liability, DUI, workplace injury cases, and more. 

For more information or to discuss your personal injury case, feel free to reach out to Littlejohn Law LLC.


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