Can You Sue Someone for Emotional Distress? How and What to Do

Delving into the legal landscape can be an intimidating endeavor, particularly when it comes to sensitive matters such as emotional distress. In this blog post, we’ll answer the question,” Can you sue someone for emotional distress?” While physical injuries may be more commonly associated with legal claims, it’s essential to recognize the significance of emotional harm and the toll it can take on individuals’ well-being.

Whether you have personally experienced emotional distress or know someone who has, understanding the legal options available in Utah can provide valuable insights. We’re based in Logan, UT and serve the entire state including Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo, and St George. Request your free consultation by clicking the button below!

What is Emotional Distress? 

Emotional distress refers to the psychological or mental suffering experienced by an individual as a result of extreme or traumatic events, actions, or circumstances. It encompasses a wide range of negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, grief, humiliation, and even shock. Keep in mind that emotional distress can vary in intensity and duration, and its effects can be deeply personal and subjective. Legal claims for emotional distress generally aim to seek compensation for the psychological harm suffered and to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions. 

Can You Sue Someone for Emotional Distress? 

Yes, it’s possible to sue someone for emotional distress. However, it’s important to note that emotional distress claims can be complex and require meeting specific criteria to be successful. 

Can You Sue for Emotional Distress Without Physical Injury?

The answer is also yes. You can certainly sue someone for emotional distress even if no physical injuries were involved. Emotional distress claims can arise independently of physical injuries and are recognized as a valid legal cause of action in many jurisdictions, including Utah.


Types of Common Emotional Distress Claims and Examples 

There are several types of common emotional distress claims that individuals may pursue. These claims arise from various circumstances and can involve different forms of emotional harm. Here are some examples:

  1. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED): This type of claim typically arises when a person intentionally engages in outrageous conduct that causes severe emotional distress to another individual. Examples may include: 
  • Public humiliation or defamation with the intent to cause emotional harm. 
  • Bullying or cyberbullying that leads to significant psychological trauma. 
  • Extreme and intentional acts of harassment or stalking causing severe distress. 
  1. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED): NIED claims involve situations where an individual’s negligent behavior causes emotional harm to another person. Common examples include: 
  • Witnessing a traumatic event, such as a severe accident, that leads to emotional trauma. 
  • Receiving a misdiagnosis or negligent medical treatment. 
  • Emotional harm caused by the negligent handling of a loved one’s remains or funeral arrangements. 
  1. Workplace Emotional Distress: These claims arise from stressful or hostile work environments that cause significant emotional harm to employees. Examples may include: 
  • Workplace bullying, harassment, or discrimination. 
  • Persistent and excessive work-related stress resulting in emotional trauma. 
  • Retaliation or wrongful termination causing significant emotional distress. 
  1. Wrongful Death: Emotional distress claims can also be pursued in cases of wrongful death, where surviving family members experience severe emotional harm due to the loss of a loved one. Examples include: 
  • Emotional trauma suffered by a parent due to the negligent or intentional killing of their child. 
  • Severe emotional distress experienced by a spouse following the wrongful death of their partner.


How You Can Prove Emotional Distress 

Proving emotional distress requires presenting compelling evidence that demonstrates the existence and impact of the distress experienced. To establish a claim of emotional distress, various methods can be employed. Documentation of professional evaluations or diagnoses by mental health experts can be crucial in providing expert opinions on the plaintiff’s condition. Testimony from the plaintiff and witnesses who have observed the distress firsthand can provide firsthand accounts and validate the emotional harm suffered.

Additionally, presenting medical records, therapy records, or counseling session documentation can further support the claim by demonstrating the efforts made to address and alleviate the distress. Correspondence, such as emails, letters, or text messages, that depict the defendant’s conduct or communication causing emotional harm can serve as persuasive evidence. Photographs, videos, or other visual evidence may also be utilized to demonstrate visible manifestations of trauma, such as physical symptoms or behavioral changes. Collecting and presenting this range of evidence can strengthen the case and help establish the existence and impact of emotional distress. 

How to File an Emotional Distress Claim 

Filing an emotional distress claim in Utah involves a straightforward process. Here’s a simplified overview: 

  1. Consult an Attorney: Seek advice from a qualified attorney who specializes in personal injury or tort law. They will guide you through the legal steps and help build your case. 
  2. Understand the Legal Requirements: Familiarize yourself with the specific elements required to prove an emotional distress claim in Utah, such as the defendant’s conduct, the severity of the emotional distress, and the causal link between the actions and harm suffered. 
  3. Gather Evidence: Collect any relevant evidence that supports your claim, such as medical records, therapy or counseling records, and any documentation of the defendant’s actions or negligence. 
  4. Prepare the Complaint: Work with your attorney to draft a complaint, which is a legal document that outlines the details of your claim. It should explain the facts of the case, the legal basis for the claim, and the compensation you are seeking.
  5. File the Complaint: Your attorney will file the complaint with the appropriate court in Utah, following the required procedures and paying any necessary filing fees. 
  6. Serve the Defendant: Ensure that the defendant is properly served with a copy of the complaint, notifying them of the lawsuit and giving them an opportunity to respond. 
  7. Discovery and Negotiation: Both parties exchange relevant information and evidence during the discovery phase. Your attorney will negotiate with the opposing party to reach a settlement, if possible.
  8. Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, your case may proceed to trial. During the trial, both sides present their evidence, and a judge or jury determines the outcome.


Examples of Emotional Distress 

Examples of emotional distress can vary widely and can affect every person differently. Here are a few examples: 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Emotional distress resulting from a traumatic event, such as witnessing or experiencing violence, accidents, or natural disasters. Symptoms may include nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and fear. 

Anxiety and Panic Disorders

Intense feelings of fear, worry, and apprehension that can significantly impact daily life. Symptoms may include excessive worrying, panic attacks, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. 


Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Symptoms may include fatigue, changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping, and thoughts of self-harm. 

Humiliation and Embarrassment

Emotional distress caused by experiences that undermine a person’s dignity or self-worth. Examples include public humiliation, bullying, or harassment. 

Grief and Bereavement

Deep sorrow and emotional pain following the loss of a loved one. Symptoms may include sadness, crying, difficulty accepting the loss, and feelings of emptiness. 

Emotional Distress Due to Discrimination or Harassment

Emotional harm resulting from being targeted or mistreated based on factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. It can cause anxiety, fear, and a sense of injustice. 

Rejection and Betrayal

Emotional distress arising from personal relationships, such as romantic or friendship betrayal, rejection, or abandonment. This can lead to feelings of hurt, anger, and loss of trust. 

How are Emotional Distress Damages Calculated? 

In Utah, calculating emotional distress damages can be a complex process as there is no set formula or specific guidelines for determining the amount. The calculation of these damages generally takes into account various factors, including the severity of the emotional distress, the impact it has had on the plaintiff’s life, and any associated economic losses. Some key considerations might include: 

Severity of Emotional Distress

The more severe and significant the emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff, the higher the potential damages awarded. This can be assessed by considering the nature of the distress, its duration, and its impact on the plaintiff’s overall well-being. 

Impact on Life

The extent to which the emotional distress has affected the plaintiff’s daily life, relationships, career, and overall quality of life is taken into account. This can include disruptions in personal relationships, loss of enjoyment of life, and impairment of mental or physical health. 

Economic Losses

Emotional distress damages may also include compensation for economic losses resulting from the distress. For instance, if the distress has led to medical expenses, therapy costs, or loss of income, these tangible financial losses may be factored into the calculation.

Comparative Damages

Courts may consider similar cases and awards in Utah to determine a reasonable range of damages for emotional distress in a particular context. Prior cases involving similar circumstances and the resulting compensation can serve as a reference point. 

Expert Testimony

Expert witnesses, such as mental health professionals, may provide testimony to support the plaintiff’s claim and help quantify the extent of the emotional distress suffered. 

Can You Sue Someone for Emotional Distress Conclusion

Providing emotional distress can be a challenging task, requiring strong evidence and legal expertise. At Harris, Preston, and Chambers, we understand the complexities involved in emotional distress cases and are here to help. Our team of experienced attorneys is equipped to handle a wide range of legal needs, including emotional distress claims, personal injury cases, and other areas of law.

We can provide comprehensive support, from guiding you through the legal process to advocating for your rights and seeking fair compensation. With our knowledge, dedication, and client-centered approach, we strive to achieve the best possible outcome for your emotional distress case and all your legal needs. Not only are we Utah injury lawyers but we’re also licensed Idaho injury attorneys

*Nothing herein constitutes legal advice. You should obtain independent legal counsel regarding your specific factual situation.