If you sustained injuries because of a doctor’s medical negligence or medical errors, you could sue the doctor for medical malpractice. In your lawsuit, you can demand compensation for the injuries and damages caused by medical malpractice. 

Examples of the types of damages in a medical malpractice claim include:

  • The cost of treating the injuries or harm caused by the malpractice
  • Personal care and in-home health care costs
  • Loss of income and decreases in future earning capacity
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress
  • Disabilities and permanent impairments
  • Loss of quality of life or enjoyment of life

The types of damages and the value of the damages depend on the circumstances of your case. One specific damage that is often in question is emotional distress.

What is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is the psychological pain and mental anguish you experience because of a traumatic event or injury. Each person experiences emotional distress in different ways and to different degrees. 

A person may experience one or more of the following symptoms of emotional distress:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Sleep problems, including night terrors
  • Memory problems
  • Aggression 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Flashbacks
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Substance abuse 
  • Lack of energy

Emotional distress can be debilitating, just like a severe physical injury. A person suffering from extreme emotional distress may be unable to perform daily tasks or work. They may be unable to care for their basic needs or the needs of their family.

In some cases, the symptoms of emotional distress may not debilitate a person. However, the symptoms can create significant problems in their social life, family life, and career. 

Suing a Doctor for Damages Caused by Emotional Distress

Emotional distress damages are a part of most medical malpractice claims. It is assumed that a person who sustains a physical injury through medical negligence will also suffer emotional distress.

Therefore, emotional distress is included in medical malpractice cases where a doctor causes a patient physical harm. For example, this may happen if a doctor operates on the wrong surgical site or misdiagnoses a condition causing the patient to suffer unnecessary medical treatments.

However, can a patient sue a doctor for emotional distress if the patient did not sustain a physical injury?

It is Possible to Recover Damages For Emotional Distress Without Sustaining Physical Injury

Some states require individuals to sustain a physical injury in order to recover compensation for emotional distress. New York is not one of those states – victims of medical negligence can sue their healthcare provider for mental anguish and suffering they experience, even if the doctor didn’t inflict a physical injury.

For instance, you could sue your doctor for emotional distress caused by their failure to diagnose a serious health condition. 

The mental distress caused by a medical mistake can be just as devastating or harmful as physical  trauma. Sometimes the emotional distress can be considerably more damaging.

How to Prove Your Doctor Caused Your Emotional Distress 

Proving that you sustained a serious or severe emotional injury can be challenging. Testimony from an expert will be required, such as a psychiatrist or therapist. 

Other evidence that can help prove a claim for emotional distress include:

  • Copies of therapy bills and records
  • Records of missed time from work 
  • Prescription costs
  • Testimony from friends and family members

It can also be helpful to keep a journal with details of your struggle with emotional distress after medical malpractice. Make sure that you note the days that you are unable to work and the events that you miss because of depression or anxiety. If you have flashbacks or night terrors, write those details in the journal.

Providing evidence of how you suffered is just one factor in proving emotional distress. Showing a jury that the emotional distress severely impacted your life in multiple ways can help the jury understand the level of suffering caused by the doctor. That level of suffering impacts the amount of your emotional distress claim. 

Seeking compensation for emotional distress caused by a doctor is a complicated process. Working with experienced personal injury lawyers can give you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve.