What Is Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress? 2024

Table of Contents

  • What Is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?
  • Elements of a Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Compensation for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Examples of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Get Help With a Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Emotional harm can be just as damaging as physical harm in some circumstances. The law recognizes this, which is why a person can file a civil claim to recover compensation for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

But what is intentional infliction of emotional distress? This guide explains what this tort is, what a plaintiff must prove to successfully make a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and what compensation a plaintiff can receive if they make their case.

What Is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a civil tort that occurs when a defendant acts in a way that recklessly or intentionally causes severe emotional harm to a victim.

A victim can pursue a claim to recover compensation when intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) occurs. However, not all offensive conduct rises to the level of IIED. The defendant’s actions must go beyond mere rudeness or offensiveness and must be truly outrageous.

Whether a defendant’s conduct is bad enough to be considered a tort that a plaintiff can be compensated for depends on the specifics of the case.

Elements of a Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

In order to make a successful tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, you must prove several elements of this tort. The specifics of what you must demonstrate ary based on your state’s laws, but in general, you likely have to show the following:

The defendant’s conduct was outrageous and extreme and went beyond the bounds of decency.

The defendant acted intentionally to cause severe emotional distress or was negligent in causing the emotional damage.

The defendant’s conduct actually caused severe emotional distress

When a defendant is exercising a legal right, this cannot give rise to a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. For example, a landlord evicting a tenant lawfully might be very emotionally distressing to a tenant, but it wouldn’t give rise to a successful tort claim for IIED because the landlord has the right to pursue eviction proceedings even if they are upsetting to the evicted tenant.

The defendant’s conduct does not, however, have to be directed specifically at the plaintiff in order to cause the plaintiff severe emotional distress. If the defendant behaves outrageously for the purpose of causing harm to a child and the child’s parents are present and are severely distressed, the parents could pursue a claim for IIED.

Compensation for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

A defendant can be held responsible for compensating a victim for all foreseeable damages resulting from the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

When a person experiences this type of severe emotional damage, it can cause a variety of serious consequences including mental and sometimes even physical harm. For example, a victim of IIED might experience anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder or may develop damaging behaviors such as self-harm or drug or alcohol abuse. Physical symptoms such as migraines or digestive disorders can result.

A defendant can be held responsible for paying for all damages that arise from these consequences including:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages/earnings
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish

It is up to a plaintiff to demonstrate the extent of the harm that actually resulted from the defendant’s outrageous, damaging conduct.

Examples of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Some examples of intentional infliction of emotional distress could include:

  • Hate crimes
  • Harassment, including sexual harassment
  • Threats of physical harm

Many factors go into whether a particular type of conduct is an example of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

These include the relationship between the defendant and the victim of IIED, the duration of the distressing behavior, whether any physical injury occurred, whether the defendant knew the victim was vulnerable to becoming distressed by a particular behavior and whether the defendant was in a position of authority over the IIED victim.

Get Help With a Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

IIED cases can be difficult to prove because courts may be reluctant to provide compensation for distressing words or actions alone when no physical harm occurred.

There are also free speech concerns, since simply saying distressing things is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech in many circumstances.

Because of the challenges involved in these types of tort claims, it’s best to consult with an experienced injury lawyer to help you gather the evidence you need to make your case. Your attorney can advise you of your state’s requirements for an IIED claim and help you to make a strong claim by taking steps such as finding expert witnesses who can testify about the impact of the defendant’s actions.

Contact an injury lawyer as soon as possible so your lawyer can begin helping you to make your case.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress?

Defamation occurs when a defendant makes a false statement of fact that causes damage. Intentional infliction of emotional distress occurs when a defendant goes beyond merely making a defamatory statement. A defendant can be found liable for IIED only when the defendant acted negligently or intentionally to cause emotional harm, the harm actually occurs and the defendant’s conduct was outrageous and extreme, beyond the bounds of decency.

What are examples of intentional infliction of emotional distress?

Sexual harassment, hate crimes and other types of harassing behavior are often considered intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, mere rudeness doesn’t qualify as IIED.

The defendant’s actions must have been extreme and outrageous, such that they go beyond the bounds of decency. The nature and duration of the conduct and the relationship between plaintiff and defendant determine if a particular upsetting behavior is considered intentional infliction of emotional distress.

How can you calculate damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress?

You should be compensated for all losses caused by intentional infliction of emotional distress. This includes payment for medical bills and lost wages if the IIED caused you to need treatment for mental or physical issues or prevented you from being able to work.

You should also be compensated for non-economic damages, such as for the pain and suffering and mental anguish you experienced. An attorney can help you to prove the extent of your damages by providing evidence such as testimony from expert witnesses.

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L. Derek Eldridge
L. Derek Eldridge is a renowned expert in the iGaming industry with a prolific career spanning over a decade. Known for his insightful analysis and forward-thinking strategies, Eldridge has significantly influenced the world of online gambling. As a well-known author and editor, he has contributed to several high-profile industry websites and portals, shaping the discourse in this dynamic sector. His expertise in iGaming technology, market trends, and regulatory frameworks has made him a sought-after voice in the industry.

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