How to Recover Damages for Emotional Distress under Texas LawJune 29, 2017
Texas law1 provides various mechanisms by which the victims of negligence can recover compensation for injuries and losses. When accidents (or other events) do not cause physical injuries, however, pursuing damages for emotional distress under Texas law can be challenging.
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Compensation for Personal Injury Claims: Economic versus Noneconomic Damages
Before delving more deeply into the details of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claims, it’s first important to differentiate the two main types of damages that may available to the victims of negligence. These include:
- Economic damages – Damages that can be objectively calculated from medical bills, lost wages, property repair bills and/or other documents are referred to as economic damages. These damages can include both past and future losses. Since economic damages are more ‘concrete’ in nature (than noneconomic damages), Texas law does not limit the extent of economic damages that a victim can recover after an accident.
- Noneconomic damages – Damages that are more subjective, like those associated with pain, suffering and emotional distress, comprise noneconomic damages. These types of damages are not inherently valued at a particular dollar amount. Consequently:
- They can be more difficult to calculate.
- Some states, including Texas, place caps on the amount of noneconomic damages that may be awarded in certain personal injury cases.
Texas Personal Injury Law: The Challenges of Recovering Emotional Distress in Absence of Physical Injury
In many personal injury cases, plaintiffs (i.e., injured parties) will seek compensation that includes both economic and noneconomic damages. When, however, there are no physical injuries associated with a claim, seeking noneconomic damages for emotional distress can be difficult under Texas law.
Example: Someone witnesses a car accident in which his loved one is severely or fatally injured. This witness did not suffer any physical injuries in the crash. However, he arguably may have suffered emotional distress.
In situations like this example, pursuing damages in the absence of physical injury can be an uphill battle. Generally, this is because:
- The involved negligence must be particularly outrageous or horrific (if it didn’t cause any physical injury) – In other words, insults, petty threats, criticism or mild oppressions are not typically considered to be ‘horrific’ or especially egregious. The act or behavior in question would have to go beyond the bounds of decency (rather than simply being unethical or illegal).
- If there is another statute or tort that applies to the claim, the plaintiff can generally only recover under that claim – This is due to the fact that Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claims are typically gap-filler torts, meaning they apply when there is no other tort or law under which to seek recovery. So, for instance, a plaintiff who filed a harassment claim (involving no physical injuries) and a claim for emotional distress would usually only be able to recover under the harassment claim.
Here, it is critical to also understand that:
- Despite the challenges associated with non-injury emotional distress claims, they CAN (and have been) won on behalf of plaintiffs.
- The best way to position an emotional distress claim for success and recovery is to contact the Amaro Law Firm.
Get Answers about Your Rights & Recovery Options: Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm
A Houston personal injury lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm is ready to discuss your potential claim and explain all the available legal remedies. Simply call (713) 352-7975 or email our firm to set up a free consultation.
Insightful, skilled and dedicated, our attorneys can provide you with the advocacy and representation necessary to build you a strong claim.
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1: Texas law on civil remedies & damages