Emotional Distress Legal Meaning and Definition

Here is a simplified definition of the legal term Emotional Distress.

Emotional Distress (noun)

Emotional Distress refers to a legal claim for damages (usually money) in cases where someone's negligent or intentional actions cause another person significant mental stress or suffering. Historically, courts awarded damages for emotional distress only if there was physical harm too. However, many states now allow damages for emotional distress even without any physical injury. This is often seen in sexual harassment suits where the primary harm might be emotional, not physical. Generally, emotional distress can be claimed in cases of defamation (libel and slander) but not in breach of contract or other business disputes. Because emotional distress can easily be overstated or pretended, valid proof such as expert testimony from a mental health professional can be necessary to confirm the severity of the emotional distress and decide its monetary worth.