Proving Emotional Distress in a Motorcycle Lawsuit

When you file a motorcycle lawsuit, you ask for damages. Many of these damages are monetary and therefore easily computed. They can be proven with medical bills, receipts, or pay stubs. That is why it is easy for the courts to reconcile these damages. However, there are intangible damages that are non-monetary. The victim experiences these losses in an accident, and nobody but the victim truly knows the extent of the suffering. Therefore, the courts will also award damages for emotional distress in a motorcycle lawsuit. 

What is Emotional Distress? 

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the legal definition of emotional distress is: 

A highly unpleasant emotional reaction (as anguish, humiliation, or fury) which results from another’s conduct and for which damages may be sought.” 

This is the non-monetary part of a loss in an injurious motorcycle accident. It is difficult to quantify but can often be much more severe than monetary losses. This type of distress is very common in any accident, and it can be presented in many forms such as pain, anxiety, or sadness. It is a huge part of motorcycle lawsuits because there are typically severe injuries and trauma that cause more than physical harm. 


In order to understand emotional distress, it is good to look at examples of what may be considered this type fo damage. Examples of distress caused by emotion are numerous, and they can be defined differently on a case-by-case basis. A few examples are: 

  • A situation that proved to be very embarrassing or humiliating. Possibly an unwanted display of nudity or exposure of a private area of life. 
  • Diminished life quality. For example, if the loss of a loved one or the loss of an ability (limb?) diminished life quality, this could be claimed in damages. 
  • Loss of sleep. Losing sleep is a diminished quality of life even if it is only short-term. Chronic insomnia is a more likely source of emotional distress. 
  • Cognitive changes. After a head injury, a person may experience emotional distress while trying to return to normal social, work, or other life activities. They may suffer additional frustration because they are unable to do things that were once easy. 
  • Loss of enjoyment. The ability to enjoy life may be harmed if one is disabled or if they lost a loved one. Loss of enjoyment may also occur because one is unable to ride motorcycles anymore due to the injury. There are many possibilities. 
  • Trauma. Severe accidents or other traumatic incidents can cause chronic stress disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and this can represent emotional distress. 
  • Anger. It may sound strange to get compensated for anger, but anger is emotional distress. If someone wronged you, and that is why you have anger, the court may award damages. 
  • Pain almost always causes emotional distress in the hopes that it will go away and the frustration and suffering when it does not go away. 

What is NOT emotional distress? 

Generally speaking, you have to have suffered physical damages in order for the courts to consider emotional distress. This is not meant to discount emotional distress but rather to prevent litigation when nobody was physically harmed. If the courts allowed lawsuits for every stressful situation, there would not be enough judges to handle all the cases. Instead, your emotional distress must stem from an actual harmful event even if that harm was inflicted on a loved one (wrongful death). 

Florida’s Impact Rule

The State of Florida calls their physical injury requirement for emotional distress the “Impact Rule.” It has been largely upheld in the Supreme Court as “ancient precedent.” The courts have opined that even when it seems justified, emotional distress without physical injury was outside the jurisdiction of the court. However, they have found some exceptions. 

If a person suffers physical injury because of the distress of seeing a loved one harmed, the courts may rule outside of the impact rule. For example, if a person suffered a heart attack when they saw his or her child hit by a vehicle, the courts may accept emotional damages. 

The courts have also awarded damages when a perpetrator has “touched” a victim, but that doesn’t really fit a motorcycle lawsuit. The point is that the courts have made exceptions to their impact rule. 

How to compute emotional distress damages? 

Computing damages is complicated, as there isn’t a set value for certain circumstances. What PTSD means for one person may be different for another. Some people suffer more from a disability than others. The courts cannot accurately predict how much suffering will be in a person’s future. 

There aren’t really any set limits on damages for emotional distress in a motorcycle lawsuit. That is why there are occasionally very large amounts assigned to emotional this type of damages. There aren’t any calculators available for emotional distress damages, but there are some things you can use to compute your damages. 

You might compute your emotional distress by the financial factors that it affects or could affect. You might also look at historical cases to get an idea of your damages. Basically, your number has to be agreeable and reasonable in the eyes of the court in order for the courts to award it. 

Proving Emotional Distress in a Motorcycle Lawsuit

The amount that you claim in emotional distress damages can be qualified by detailed records, doctor testimony, or witnesses. If a family member has seen the suffering, they should make a statement in writing. A doctor can provide similar documentation. 

A diary or some form of record keeping can also be valuable. Writing in a journal how you feel every day can paint a clearer picture of your suffering. If each day you get up and stress about looking in the mirror and seeing scars, this is emotional distress. It is similar if you wake up each day and become overwhelmed with stress thinking about getting to work because you’ll have to drive. Maybe you cannot drive because of PTSD. There are so many ways that emotional stress can impact a person. Documenting it makes the courts better able to understand. 

Any documentation of emotional distress can be helpful in a motorcycle lawsuit. Bring EVERYTHING to your lawyer for consideration. You never know when the slightest piece of evidence can have a big impact on a judgement. 

Emotional Distress and Your Lawyer

Discussing emotional distress in a motorcycle lawsuit can be very difficult. It can actually cause more distress that cannot be added to the damages for which you are asking. That is why it is important that you find a lawyer who is well-versed in motorcycle lawsuits and who has compassion for your predicament. 

You want a lawyer who will listen to your story with compassion, and you want one who will protect you throughout the lawsuit process. This may involve delicate decision-making about your capacity to testify in-person, or it may involve using other methods to protect you from the stress of the courtroom. Your lawyer should carefully explain every step of the process,. This is so you can understand what the courts will expect you to do. He or she will also be able to explain if there are going to be any difficult circumstances, so you can prepare emotionally. Your lawyer should be able to help reduce additional emotional distress during the legal process. 

If you are interested in speaking to a lawyer for a consultation regarding a motorcycle lawsuit, contact the Law Offices of Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz.

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