Stephen Schultz | October 26, 2023 | Personal Injury
Yes, you can sue for emotional distress in St. Louis, Missouri, provided that your case resembles one of the five permissible scenarios described below. Your emotional distress claim can be a component of another claim, or it can be a stand-alone claim.
What Is Emotional Distress?
In personal injury law, the term ‘emotional distress’ refers to psychological suffering inflicted by one party upon another. The perpetrator typically bears a certain degree of fault—negligence, perhaps, or even malice.
Emotional distress can trigger a host of medically diagnosable symptoms such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, phobias, and other reactions. Missouri law provides victims of emotional distress with several ways of seeking compensation.
Types of Emotional Distress Claims
Missouri recognizes at least five different types of emotional distress claims—personal injury, sexual assault, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Personal Injury Claims
Personal injury claims can be based on negligence or intentional misconduct. In Missouri, you can claim emotional distress damages as a component of an ordinary personal injury claim.
More specifically, emotional distress damages are a component of non-economic damages. The non-economic damages that you might characterize as damages for emotional distress include:
- Mental and emotional anguish;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Disfigurement; and
- Loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium is the odd man out on this list, because it belongs to the injury victim’s spouse. The complaint is that the victim’s injury harmed the marital relationship between the spouses due to a loss of intimacy.
Damages caps on medical malpractice claims
Missouri has enacted a limit on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims. This limit applies to all non-economic damages, not only emotional distress damages. In ordinary injury cases, the cap is $400,000. But if the injury is “catastrophic, ” it increases to $700,000. There is a small annual cost of living increase to both of these amounts.
Sexual Assault Claims
You can recover personal injury damages in a sexual assault lawsuit even if you do not suffer a physical injury. The humiliation of offensive sexual touching is an injury to your dignity, which is enough to justify your claim.
It is true that Missouri criminal courts routinely order convicted sexual abusers to pay restitution to the victim as part of their sentence. This restitution usually covers only economic damages, however, rather than non-economic damages such as emotional distress. This limitation is one of the main reasons why sexual assault victims so often file civil lawsuits against their abusers.
In Missouri, winning a defamation claim requires you to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant:
- Negligently (or maliciously if you qualify as a “public figure”),
- Published (communicated to at least one other person),
- A defamatory (malicious) statement about you,’
- That is false; and
- Damaged your reputation.
A classic example would be spreading the rumor that an elementary school teacher was a pedophile.
You cannot win a defamation claim based on emotional distress alone–you must prove actual damage to your reputation. Once you prove that much, however, you can seek damages for emotional distress as a component of your defamation claim.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) Claims
IIED, unlike the three claims listed above, is a stand-alone emotional distress claim. You can win an IIED claim by proving that:
- The defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous;
- The defendant acted with the intention of causing you emotional distress, or with reckless disregard of a known likelihood that you would suffer emotional distress;
- You suffered severe emotional distress;
- The defendant’s behavior caused your emotional distress; and
- Your emotional distress caused you harm such as PTSD, depression, or other similar conditions.
Note that although emotional distress and bodily harm must both be present, it is not the case that you must have suffered bodily harm that caused your emotional distress, as in a personal injury claim.
Instead, it’s the other way around—you must suffer harm that was caused by the emotional distress that the defendant inflicted upon you.
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED)
NIED is another stand-alone emotional distress claim. To win a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, you must prove that:
- The defendant’s conduct caused you to experience an unreasonable risk of injury or death;
- The defendant was negligent (they should have realized that their conduct would cause you to experience this risk of injury or death);
- You were at the scene of an accident, caused by the plaintiff, that suddenly generated an injury; and
- The accident caused you to suffer a justified fear of physical injury to yourself.
In a classic NIED example, you are forced to witness an injury car accident caused by the defendant that nearly injures or kills you as well.
Missouri law allows wrongful death claims, and they can generate large damages awards. No component of permitted damages, however, could be classified as compensation for emotional distress. Consequently, in Missouri, you cannot seek emotional distress damages as a consequence of a wrongful death claim.
Yes, You Can Afford a Top-Tier Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Emotional Depression Claim
Unlike most lawyers, personal injury lawyers won’t charge you based on billable hours. It’s the value of your claim that matters, not the size of your bank account. You will pay nothing upfront, and nothing ever unless you win compensation.
Even then, your legal fees will equal a pre-agreed percentage of the amount you win—typically 30% to 40%. You have little to lose by scheduling a free initial case consultation with a St. Louis personal injury lawyer.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in St. Louis, MO
If you’ve been injured, please contact Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today:
Ladue, MO Law Office
9807 S 40 Dr, St. Louis, MO 63124
Creve Coeur, MO Law Office
999 Executive Pkwy Dr #205, Creve Coeur, MO 63141