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Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

People act recklessly and engage in outrageous behavior all the time. However, when this behavior threatens your safety or causes emotional harm, that may be going too far. Civil tort laws allow victims of intentionally caused emotional distress to recover money for their harm. This is known as a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Civil liability laws are based on state laws. If you suffered emotional harm because of someone’s reckless disregard for your safety, talk to a personal injury attorney in your area to learn about your legal rights and how to win an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.

What Is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is a type of intentional tort. IIED can also be called a “tort of outrage.” A tort is a wrongful act, and civil law allows someone injured by a tort to get compensation for their losses. Other types of intentional torts include assaultbattery, and false imprisonment.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress is extreme or outrageous conduct that intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress. Someone who suffers severe emotional distress can file a lawsuit to recover compensation from the person who caused the distress.

How Is This Different From Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Case?

Accident victims may be able to claim different types of damages for their losses, including medical bills and lost income. A personal injury claim can also include non-economic damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress. Emotional distress in a personal injury case is a type of injury and is generally caused by negligence instead of an intentional act. With an IIED claim, the distress is intentional and the cause of action for filing a tort claim.

Examples of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

It can be difficult to explain intentional infliction of emotional distress without some examples. The following are some examples that could be considered behavior that could be extreme enough to count as IIED.

An employer sexually harasses an employee by making obscene comments and trying to get sexual favors. Despite telling the employer to stop, the employee was so distressed at coming into the hostile work environment that they suffered a mental breakdown. If the employer’s actions are considered to be extreme and outrageous, it could be considered IIED.

A high school student regularly makes fun of another student in front of others. The bully student threatens to hurt the other student’s family members and pets. The bully then calls up the other student to encourage them to commit suicide. If the student’s conduct is outrageous enough to cause severe emotional distress, the other student may have a legal claim.

When Can You Sue for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

You can sue someone for IIED if their outrageous actions caused you to suffer extreme emotional distress. Extreme and outrageous behavior goes beyond negligence or typical bad behavior. Things like mere insults, rudeness, or annoyances are generally not enough to be considered extreme.

How Do You Win a Personal Injury Case for IIED?

What you have to prove in an IIED case depends on your state’s laws. You have to prove each element of the claim. In general, you have to prove:

  • Outrageous conduct
  • The defendant intended to cause distress or acted with reckless disregard
  • You suffered severe emotional distress
  • The defendant’s conduct was a cause of the emotional distress

Outrageous conduct is something that goes beyond the bounds of decency in a civilized community. Your testimony and any video or witness testimony can establish the outrageous conduct. A jury can generally determine whether a reasonable person would find the defendant’s actions to be extreme and outrageous.

Some states require you to show some physical evidence of an emotional injury. A physical manifestation could be:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • High blood pressure
  • Losing consciousness.

Evidence of your distress can include medical records and testimony from your doctor or mental health professional about your treatment or medications.

What Are Defenses to Emotional Distress Lawsuits?

If you accuse someone of intentionally causing emotional distress and you end up in court, it’s important to be familiar with the strategies the defendant may use against your claims. Defenses to an IIED claim can include:

  • The conduct was not outrageous or intentional
  • You didn’t suffer severe emotional distress
  • Your injuries were not a foreseeable result of the defendant’s conduct
  • You consented to participate in the activity that caused your emotional distress

Get an Attorney’s Help To File a Lawsuit

If you have questions about your IIED case, contact a personal injury law office in your area that understands the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress and how you can get money for your distress. These cases can be complex, and an experienced attorney will be able to evaluate your claims and give you realistic legal advice about your options and expected outcomes.

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