How Claims for Emotional Distress Work in Maryland Personal Injury Cases
Many accident victims are aware that they have a legal right to recover damages, but they do not necessarily understand the different categories of compensation under Maryland law. Generally, damages are a form of reimbursement to cover the losses you suffer as an injury victim. Such damages generally take into account the physical and financial effects on the injury victim’s life, however, an accident can also affects a victim with emotional and mental trauma and anguish. Accordingly, there are strategies that can employed by your lawyer to recover compensation for such “emotional damages.”
Claims for emotional distress can be complicated, which is why it is essential to consult with a Maryland personal injury attorney regarding your circumstances. Some information about recovering this type of compensation should convince you that legal assistance is important.
Overview of Damages for Emotional Distress
In personal injury cases, there are two types of damages available to an injured victim:
- Economic damages, which are reasonably ascertainable and valued according to documentation. Examples include medical bills and lost wages. You have bills and/or invoices from your doctor, and pay stubs or tax returns representing your income.
- Non-economic damages are less definite in nature and highly subjective in terms of value. Pain and suffering is a type of non-economic damages that you may be entitled to recover as a victim. Despite the fact that you do not have a receipt, you most definitely suffer from your injuries.
Emotional distress falls under the umbrella of non-economic damages, and it is therefore often lumped into the same category as pain and suffering. An injury-causing accident can lead to anxiety, stress, depression, loss of self-confidence, and many other emotional consequences. However, in order to recover monetary damages for emotional distress under Maryland law, you must have some physical manifestation of injury related to your mental suffering. In other words, you must endure some serious physical effects because of your emotional distress after an injury. The issue is case-specific, but you will generally qualify for if:
- You develop a condition for which there is a medical diagnosis;
- Your doctor noted psychological symptoms;
- You received medical care or course of treatment from a health care provider; or,
- You were given a prescription to alleviate your symptoms.
Evidence to Support a Claim for Emotional Damages
As mentioned, it is not possible to prove non-economic damages with direct documentary evidence. Still, your medical records are important because the nature of your emotional distress can be established through information about your physical injuries. For example, in cases of extremely serious or catastrophic injuries, the diagnosis and treatment for those injuries may depict:
- The intensity of your emotional distress,
- How the duration of your paid affects your emotional well-being; and,
- The ways your emotional distress cause other bodily harm.
In many cases, attorneys rely on medical experts to provide opinions on these factors. A helpflu and compassionate doctor can support your case by making the connection between your physical injuries and your emotional distress.
Emotional Distress and Maryland’s Cap on Non-Economic Damages
Regardless of how much distress you experience and how well you can prove it, you will still need to contend with Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages. The original version of the law placed a $650,000 ceiling on compensation for any non-economic damages, including pain, suffering, emotional distress, and other such “non-economic” damages. It also included a formula for an annual increase to allow for inflation, whereby it is raised approximately $15,000 per year.
For 2019, the non-economic damages cap for personal injury cases is now $860,000. The law placing a cap on damages does not apply to economic damages, for which you may be entitled to the full amount shown by medical bills, documents showing your wages, and others.
Contributory Negligence Under Maryland Law
Another legal concept that is not affected by emotional distress is Maryland’s rule on contributory negligence. Under this law, you cannot recover any amount of compensation if your own actions were a contributing factor in causing your own injuries. For example:
- Motor Vehicle Collisions: Your conduct could be in the spotlight – and can prevent you from being eligible for compensation – if you were careless while behind the wheel. Speeding, distracted driving, violations of traffic laws, and other actions could prevent you from recovering any monetary damages.
- Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents: People on foot or on a bicycle are expected to follow traffic laws that apply to them. Violations could lead to application of the contributory negligence rule. As an example, your personal injury claim might fail if you were walking against traffic, not using a crosswalk, not crossing on a walk traffic signal, or weaving in and out of lanes on your bike.
- Slip and Fall Incidents: Property owners are required to keep the premises safe from dangerous conditions, but you are also responsible for managing your own safety. Sliding down stair cases, disregarding barricades, and ignoring warning signs could trigger the contributory negligence rule.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
There is another cause of action in Maryland that pertains to damages for emotional distress, but it is not based upon the negligent acts of another person or entity. Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a tort in the sense that it involves wrongdoing, but the injuries you suffer are no accident. To recover in such a case, you must prove:
- The responsible person’s conduct was either intentional or reckless with a disregard of whether someone could get hurt;
- That individual’s acts were extreme and outrageous, with no care of whether the conduct could cause injuries;
- This conduct was the cause of your emotional distress; and,
- The emotional distress was serious or severe.
With this type of claim, you do not need to show that you also had physical injuries or physical manifestations of a medical condition. That makes these cases rare, since many victims of intentional tortious conduct will have injuries of some sort. An intentional infliction of emotional distress claim may be appropriate for:
- Bullying and cyberbullying;
- Physical threats;
- Sexual harassment;
- Stalking and cyberstalking; and,
- Other outrageous conduct.
If you have questions about any of the above or want to find out more about how the law would apply to the facts of your case, call us now to speak with a knowledgeable Maryland Accident Lawyer.