How Do You Measure Emotional Distress in Indiana?
In addition to recovering economic damages for financial losses, a personal injury plaintiff in Indiana can also obtain payment for non-economic harm such as emotional distress. Emotional distress can come in many different forms. For instance, someone with a spinal cord injury may experience a diminished quality of life because they can no longer engage in their favorite hobbies. Further, a plaintiff with a brain injury may experience a loss of consortium because they cannot participate in meaningful relations with their spouse.
The severity of the emotional distress and its impact on the plaintiff's life are crucial factors considered by the court when determining the appropriate amount of compensation to award. Fortunately, if you suffered emotional distress as a result of your injury, then an Indiana personal injury attorney can help you pursue compensation from the at-fault party.
Factors Used to Determine the Value of Emotional Distress in Indiana
There are several factors the court will consider when determining the value of damages for emotional distress in Indiana. For example, any of the following may be analyzed:
Severity and Nature of Emotional Distress
The severity and nature of the emotional distress experienced by the plaintiff are crucial factors. The court may assess whether the distress resulted in physical symptoms like headaches or sleep disturbances. Generally, more significant damages will be awarded for more severe and long-lasting forms of distress.
Cause of Emotional Distress
The cause of the emotional distress plays a significant role in determining damages. If the distress directly resulted from the defendant's negligent or intentional actions, it's more likely to lead to substantial damages. Meanwhile, if a plaintiff played a role in causing their own emotional distress, then the damages they can recover may be limited.
Duration of Emotional Distress
The duration of emotional distress is another key factor. Longer periods of suffering generally result in higher damages. A plaintiff who endured emotional distress for months or years because of the injury is likely to receive more significant compensation compared to someone who experienced distress for a shorter time.
Impact on Plaintiff's Life
The impact of emotional distress on the plaintiff's life will also be considered. If the distress significantly disrupted the plaintiff's daily life, relationships, or ability to work, it can lead to higher damages. Evidence of therapy or counseling sought by the plaintiff can also influence the determination of emotional distress damages.
Pre-Existing Mental Health Conditions or Vulnerabilities
Lastly, the plaintiff's pre-existing mental health conditions or vulnerabilities may also be accounted for. For example, if a plaintiff had a pre-existing condition that was worsened or triggered by the defendant's actions, then the court may adjust their damages accordingly.
Indiana Expands Eligibility for Emotional Distress Damages in Personal Injury Cases
In December of 2021, the Indiana Supreme Court expanded eligibility for individuals seeking damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Previously, emotional distress claims were limited to those who had suffered direct physical injury, witnessed the injury or death of a third party, or witnessed a relative's severe injury or death immediately after it occurred. However, in a 3-2 decision, the court has now allowed parents or guardians to seek damages from child caretakers when they discover, with irrefutable certainty, that the caretaker sexually abused their child and that this abuse significantly impacted their emotional well-being.
This decision stems from a 2015-16 sexual assault case involving a disabled child and an instructional assistant in Indianapolis. The victim's mother sued the perpetrator, the school, and the school district in 2019, claiming emotional distress because of the abuse. Lower courts initially rejected her lawsuit because it did not fit the previous categories for emotional distress claims.
Justice Christopher Goff, writing for the majority, argued that the extraordinary circumstances in this case warranted expanding the law to accommodate such claims. He pointed out that while only a few states have waived the proximity requirement for emotional distress claims related to child sexual abuse, Indiana should take a progressive approach in this instance. Justice Goff emphasized that the specific circumstances of the case aligned with the new rule, allowing the mother to proceed with her emotional distress claim against the defendants.
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