Many people experience stress in their jobs. When workers are forced to deal with regular work-related stress as well as a coworker’s outrageous behavior, the stress that they experience may be overwhelming. If you have asked your manager for help with dealing with your coworker’s poor behavior, your manager might not follow through or take you seriously. This can make workers feel anxious or become depressed about their jobs. In some cases, workers who suffer from emotional distress because of the intentional or negligent actions of other people may have grounds to file personal injury claims. Since the law is complex, it is a good idea for you to consult with the experienced employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler before you file a claim.
Understanding claims for emotional distress
There are two types of emotional distress that might form the basis of a lawsuit, including the negligent infliction of emotional distress and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. The difference between these claims is the responsible party’s state of mind when the harmful act was performed. Each type of emotional distress will require the plaintiff to prove certain elements to prevail in a lawsuit.
Negligent infliction of emotional distress
If your emotional distress was caused by the negligent actions of another person or your company, you may be able to recover damages in a lawsuit. To succeed in your claim, you will need to prove all of the following elements:
- The defendant’s actions were a willful violation of a legal duty or he or she engaged in negligent actions.
- The defendant’s conduct caused your emotional distress.
People have duties to exercise reasonable care to prevent others from suffering emotional distress. Claims for the negligent infliction of emotional distress can be filed by people who were harmed by the negligent actions of another person and by people who witnessed what happened but who did not suffer physical harm. An example of when you might have grounds to file a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress might include when you suffer emotional distress after nearly being crushed by poorly maintained equipment. If you simply witnessed a coworker almost being crushed and were not close enough to the equipment to be in danger, you will unlikely have grounds to sue. People who were not in danger but who witnessed the harmful act generally must be close family relatives of the victim.
Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Claims for the intentional infliction of emotional distress arise in situations in which someone’s outrageous conduct was intentional. To prevail on this type of claim, you will need to prove the following elements:
- The employer or coworker acted intentionally.
- The actions were outrageous.
- The actions caused your emotional distress.
- The distress that you experienced was severe.
Proving a claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress can be difficult. Extreme, outrageous conduct is not defined, but it must be something more than annoyances, threats, and insults. One case in which the conduct was not determined to be outrageous and extreme involved a company that passed an employee’s old mug shot around to humiliate the worker.
Courts do not specifically look for extreme responses from people who suffered emotional distress. It is instead found in cases in which the circumstances would cause emotional distress to a reasonable person in a similar situation.
The vicarious liability of employers
Employers are vicariously liable for the negligent or intentional actions of their employees when they cause harm to others, including emotional distress. Employers can also be liable for the actions of their employees when they agreed to the conduct. The conduct must have occurred within the scope of the employee’s job, however.
A plaintiff will typically have to prove the following elements to hold an employer liable:
- The employer knew about the employee’s conduct.
- The employer knew that the conduct was harmful.
- The employer did not take appropriate steps to address the situation.
In emotional distress claims involving the workplace, it is often alleged together with other types of prohibited conduct such as racial discrimination or sexual harassment.
Types of damages for emotional distress
The damages that might be available for an emotional distress claim will generally depend on the severity of the emotional harm that resulted from the defendant’s conduct. The jury will evaluate several factors when determining the monetary amount of the damages to award, including how outrageous the defendant’s conduct was, how much harm you suffered, and whether your distress is ongoing.
Talk to the experienced attorneys at Swartz Swidler
Emotional distress claims can be difficult to prove since the victims do not have visible injuries. However, emotional distress is a real injury that can cause serious problems. Talking to the experienced attorneys at Swartz Swidler can help you to understand whether you might have a valid claim. Schedule a consultation today by filling out our contact form or calling us at 856.685.7420.