What is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

watching out of the window

Did you know that you don’t necessarily have to suffer a physical injury in order to file a personal injury lawsuit in San Diego? Sometimes the mere emotional distress of witnessing an accident can be enough to cause significant harm. In California, you may be entitled to recover compensation if another person has caused you to suffer extreme emotional harm. This can be true regardless of whether the person acted intentionally or recklessly.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

If another person’s actions have caused you to suffer emotional trauma, you may be entitled to compensation from them. In order to recover damages for your emotional distress you will have to prove:

  1. Another’s outrageous conduct caused you to suffer severe emotional distress; and
  2. That person intended to cause you harm or acted with reckless disregard of the likelihood of causing distress.

What is Outrageous Conduct?

You can only recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress if another person’s conduct is classified as outrageous. In California, outrageous is defined to mean “conduct so extreme that it goes beyond all bounds of decency.”

You can determine if conduct is outrageous by asking whether or not a reasonable person would find the behavior to be offensive, crude, or uncivilized. Conduct that is annoying, irritating, or in poor taste,  but no more severe, will not be considered “outrageous” for the purposes of the law.

Whether or not conduct is “outrageous” can also depend on the specific circumstances of a situation. For example, conduct will be more likely to be classified as outrageous if:

  1. The defendant holds and abuses a position of power or authority; or
  2. The defendant knows about your vulnerabilities or weaknesses.

Determining if conduct is outrageous will be a question of fact that will require an analysis of the details of your specific case.

Intentional Conduct vs. Reckless Disregard

You can recover compensation for emotional distress caused by intentional or reckless outrageous behavior.

Intentional Conduct: Outrageous conduct will be intentional when the defendant knows that the behavior is likely to cause emotional harm.

Reckless Disregard: A reckless disregard for your emotional well-being can also trigger liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Reckless disregard occurs when:

  • A defendant knew that emotional distress would be a likely result of their behavior, or
  • A defendant fails to think about the likely consequences of his or her actions.

Here’s an example: Joe gets extremely drunk and gets behind the wheel of a car. You’re walking down the road with your friend when Joe veers onto the sidewalk and hits your friend. Witnessing this event has caused you to suffer severe emotional trauma. Joe will likely be considered to have shown a reckless disregard for your emotional well-being. He either should have known that driving drunk was likely to cause an accident or failed to think about the consequences of his actions.

What is Severe Emotional Distress?

In order to recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the trauma you endure must be defined as “severe.” California law explains that severe means trauma that is “so substantial and long lasting that no reasonable person” could endure it.

Whether or not trauma is “severe” is a subjective question of fact that will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.

When Might I Be Able to Recover Compensation for Emotional Distress?

If you’ve been the victim of a crime, suffered an injury in an accident, or witnessed a tragic event, you may be entitled to an award of damages for your emotional suffering. The San Diego personal injury attorneys at Injury Trial Lawyers have successfully recovered damages on behalf of clients for emotional distress caused by:

As long as your severe emotional trauma is the result of intentional or reckless outrageous conduct, you may be able to recover an award of damages.

Call Injury Trial Lawyers, APC Today

Have you recently suffered severe emotional distress? Did another person’s outrageous actions trigger your debilitating trauma? If so, contact Injury Trial Lawyers, APC for assistance filing a personal injury claim for damages. With our help, you can maximize the financial settlement or award you receive. We offer a free consultation, so do not hesitate to call us today.

Injury Trial Lawyers, APC
1230 Columbia Street, Suite 560
San Diego, CA 92101