The term ‘Mental Anguish’ refers to non-economic damages. These damages are mostly sought for in personal injury cases and medical malpractice cases and sometimes in defamation cases also. Mental anguish includes certain types of sufferings like anxiety, distress, fright, grief, guilt, depression, or trauma.
Injuries that do not involve monetary losses are referred to as non-economic damages. Examples include disfigurement, suffering, disability, and humiliation, loss of companionship, mental anguish, and emotional distress. These damages are referred to as subjective damages because they vary depending on a plaintiff's subjective or personal experience. There is no scale to calculate the extent of these damages due to which the juries may overcompensate. Also, they may exceed the actual economic damages. Since there is no standard formula to calculate non-economic damages, they may differ from case to case. In a majority of cases, the plaintiff is required to show evidence to recover damages. If they are unable to provide these proofs, they will not be able to recover.
History of Damages for Mental Anguish
The Roman delicts had a system for providing compensation for mental anguish that resembled today's tort system. The basic Roman delicts were "Iniuria" meaning an injury to person and "damnum iniuria datum" meaning damage to property. Under Iniuria, ill-will of the defendant was required to be proved while under damnum iniuria datum, negligence was to be proved. With the course of time, the Roman law provided compensation for pain and suffering only while the tort provided pecuniary damages only in the cases involving negligence. Under the English Law, compensation was provided for libel and slander, and for shame after some time.
Compensation for Mental Anguish
The jurisdictions of most states allow victims to recover for mental anguish while some e states have defined compensation caps on these damages. In order to control the increasing non-economic awards, some states implemented compensation caps for non-economic damages. A majority of these compensation caps address medical malpractice issues directly, according to which the malpractice premiums elevated to the point where they became a hindrance for physicians to practice. Attorneys who were against these compensation caps argued that they duly penalize plaintiffs who are rightfully entitled to a certain level of compensation for damages that will never be repaired.
There are no defined actions or situations that can cause mental anguish or can be labeled as the reason for someone's mental health disorder. The way different people react to different situations varies greatly. For instance, those who have a history of mental health illness are more susceptible. Therefore, addressing these matters is difficult for the legal system. However, progress is being made to ensure the safety rights of those who suffer disruptions to the quality of their lives that is not caused by physical pain.
Diagnosing physical injuries like a concussion or a broken leg is standard practice. Determining the financial damages caused due to these injuries is a more straightforward process. However, mental anguish is an umbrella term that covers sufferings and mental disorders that are known to the psychiatric community. Most of the time the term refers to,
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety related disorders
- Trauma and stressor-related disorders
- Mood disorders
- Sleep Disorders
Personal injury cases can cause mental anguish. These cases include wrongful death, automobile accidents, or medical malpractice etc.
Trauma and Stressor-related Disorders
This category of psychological disorders comprises of all mental health disorders that occur after someone is exposed to a profoundly traumatic event. A majority of people who suffer from these disorders include police officers, soldiers, as well as victims of life-threatening situations like natural disasters or sexual assault.
The symptoms of trauma and stressor-related disorders include,
A person suffering from PTSD may avoid family, friends, and work. The victims of trauma and stressor-related disorders are entitled to compensation if they are diagnosed by a certified mental health professional and it is proven that the accused's negligence caused the disability of the victim. It is important that there is evidence of medical evaluation in such cases.
Consequences and Treatments
Someone who suffers from mental anguish has a diminished ability to live a meaningful life. These deficits cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
There are no defined standards for the treatment of mental health disorders. The prognosis of a mental illness largely depends on the patient's personal history, family history and the disorder he or she is suffering from. Treatment for a majority of these disorders requires a substantial amount of money and time.
How to prove Mental Anguish?
The process of proving the severity and the extent to which mental anguish impacts someone's life is very complicated because its impacts are not visible to an observer like a physical injury. For example, someone involved in an automobile accident develops a phobia due to which he or she is unable to drive again. Such instances demonstrate how people respond emotionally to a hurtful experience that may have caused physical or psychological injury.
The plaintiff has to bear the burden of proving the extent of impairment caused in one or more aspects of a victim's life. In order to recover the most for non-economic damages, there are certain steps that should be followed:
- Diagnose the psychological disorder a person is suffering from
- Make sure you have all the documentation that is supported by a licensed mental health professional
- Evidence that demonstrates their disability at work
- Evidence that demonstrates their impairment in other areas of life like social or educational
- Provide solid evidence that establishes a link between mental anguish and impairment caused in the individual's life
- Under the following conditions, a plaintiff holds the right to file a case on the basis of mental anguish:
- Psychological impact was among the predictable results of the accused's actions
- A psychiatric illness (known to the psychiatric community) resulted due to the defendant's actions
In short, the plaintiff should be able to prove that the defendant was aware that a psychological disorder would result from his or her actions to be able to get compensated.
Personal Injury attorney Maryland have dedicated their lives to the craft and stand by your side throughout the entire case, should you have any questions or concerns about the process.