Yes, the victim can sue a hospital for emotional distress if it is a case of medical malpractice. However, it can be challenging to establish a claim as emotional distress cases generally require demonstrating severe and significant emotional harm caused by the hospital’s negligent actions or intentional misconduct. 

What is emotional distress?

Emotional distress refers to the psychological or emotional harm suffered by an individual as a result of a traumatic or distressing event. It encompasses various negative emotions and psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, fear, humiliation, grief, anger, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Emotional distress can manifest differently for each person and significantly impact their overall well-being, mental health, and quality of life. In legal terms, emotional distress can be a basis for seeking compensation in cases of personal injury, medical malpractice, workplace harassment, or other situations where the negligent or intentional actions of another party have caused emotional harm.

Types of Common Emotional Distress Claims

Common types of emotional distress claims include:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as a car accident, assault, or medical malpractice. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and emotional distress.
  • Anxiety and Depression: Emotional distress claims often involve anxiety disorders and depression resulting from traumatic events or negligent actions. These conditions can significantly impact a person’s daily life, relationships, and ability to work.
  • Humiliation and Embarrassment: Emotional distress claims may arise from situations involving public humiliation, defamation, or invasion of privacy. These incidents can cause significant emotional harm, leading to psychological distress and damage to one’s reputation.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Emotional distress claims can also involve the loss of enjoyment of life, where an individual’s ability to engage in activities they once enjoyed is significantly diminished due to the negligence or intentional actions of another party.
  • Emotional Distress in Wrongful Death Cases: Surviving family members may seek emotional distress damages in wrongful death cases where they have suffered significant emotional pain and suffering due to the loss of a loved one.

How To File an Emotional Distress Lawsuit?

Filing an emotional distress lawsuit generally involves the following steps:

  • Documentation and Evidence: Collect evidence to support your emotional distress claim. This may include medical records, therapy or counseling records, photographs, videos, witness statements, or any other documentation that substantiates your claim.
  • Statute of Limitations: Determine the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in your jurisdiction. This is the legal time limit within which you must initiate legal action.
  • Drafting the Complaint: Your attorney will prepare the complaint, which is the legal document that outlines your claims, allegations, and damages sought. The complaint will be filed in the appropriate court.
  • Serving the Defendant: The defendant, typically the hospital or healthcare provider, must be officially served with the complaint, notifying them of the lawsuit and providing them an opportunity to respond.
  • Discovery Phase: Both parties engage in the discovery process, where they exchange information, gather evidence, and interview witnesses. This may involve depositions, interrogatories, and requests for documents.
  • Negotiations and Settlement: During the litigation process, there may be opportunities for settlement negotiations between the parties. 
  • Trial or Alternative Dispute Resolution: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial, where evidence and arguments are presented to a judge or jury. Alternatively, parties may choose alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration.

Can I sue for emotional distress?

Yes, it is possible to sue for emotional distress in certain situations. Emotional distress refers to the psychological suffering and anguish caused by someone else’s negligent or intentional actions. Determining whether you have a case for hospital medical malpractice depends on several factors, including:

  • Duty of care: You must establish that the hospital has a legal duty to provide a certain standard of care to you as a patient.
  • Breach of duty: You need to demonstrate that the hospital breached its duty of care by providing substandard or negligent medical treatment.
  • Causation: You must establish a direct link between the hospital’s breach of duty and the harm or injury you suffered as a result.
  • Damages: You need to show that you suffered measurable damages as a result of the hospital’s actions, such as physical or emotional harm, medical expenses, loss of income, or other financial losses.

What Damages Can You Recover in Medical Malpractice Claims?

In medical malpractice claims, various types of damages can be pursued to compensate the injured party for their losses. These damages may include:

  • Economic damages: This category includes the financial losses incurred as a direct result of medical malpractice, such as medical expenses, hospital bills, and lost income.
  • Non-economic damages: These damages compensate for the non-financial losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and psychological or mental anguish.
  • Punitive damages: In special cases that involve extreme carelessness, these damages are awarded. Punitive damages are meant to stop similar behavior from the healthcare providers in future.

The specific damages that can be recovered will depend on the jurisdiction’s laws and the case’s circumstances.

How Do You Prove You Have Emotional Distress and Hospital’s Liability?

Proving emotional distress and a hospital’s liability in a medical malpractice case can be complex. Some of the factors that may affect are as follows:

  • Medical evidence: Gather medical records, diagnostic reports, and expert opinions that establish the link between medical negligence and the emotional distress suffered. This may involve consultations with mental health professionals who can provide diagnoses and assessments.
  • Documentation: Keep a detailed record of your emotional distress symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Document how the distress has affected your daily life, relationships, and overall well-being.
  • Expert testimony: Seek the opinion of qualified experts, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, who can testify to the causation between the medical malpractice and your emotional distress.
  • Hospital’s negligence: Establish the hospital’s liability by demonstrating that they breached their duty of care, such as through negligent actions or failure to adhere to accepted medical standards. This may involve reviewing medical protocols, gathering witness statements, and consulting with medical experts.

Can you sue a doctor for pain and suffering?

Yes, you can sue a doctor if, due to their negligence, you have sustained injuries and damages. In a medical malpractice case, if a doctor’s negligence or medical error causes you to experience physical pain, emotional distress, or a decreased quality of life, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your pain and suffering. If you cannot secure a settlement, you can file a lawsuit against the doctor.  

How much can you sue a hospital for negligence?

The amount you can sue a hospital for negligence can vary widely and is dependent on several factors. These factors may include the extent of the harm or injuries caused by the hospital’s negligence, the impact on the victim’s life, the cost of medical treatment and ongoing care. 

There is no fixed or predetermined amount for a hospital negligence lawsuit. Each case is unique, and the compensation awarded will depend on several factors concerning the case, including the jurisdiction where the lawsuit is filed.

In medical malpractice cases, damages awarded can range from thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the severity of the injuries and the financial and emotional impact on the victim and their family. Factors such as the long-term effects of the negligence, the need for ongoing medical treatment and rehabilitation, and the loss of earning capacity may also be considered in determining the compensation amount.

How to prove emotional distress in court?

Proving emotional distress in court can be challenging, as it is intangible and subjective harm. However, there are several ways to present evidence to support your claim of emotional distress:

    • Medical records
    • Expert testimony
    • Witness testimony
    • Documentation
    • Supporting evidence


  • Medical or mental health records: Medical or mental health professionals can provide testimony or written reports documenting the emotional distress you have experienced as a result of the incident. These records can help establish a connection between the incident and your emotional suffering.
  • Expert testimony: Expert witnesses, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, can provide professional opinions on the nature and extent of your emotional distress. They can evaluate your condition, assess the impact on your life, and provide an expert perspective on the causation and severity of the emotional distress.
  • Witness testimony: Testimony from witnesses who observed your emotional distress or can testify to the changes in your behavior, mood, or mental state can be valuable evidence. This can include friends, family members, co-workers, or others who have firsthand knowledge of your emotional suffering.
  • Documentation: Keeping a journal or diary of your emotions, symptoms, and the impact of the incident on your daily life can serve as valuable documentation. This can help establish a pattern of emotional distress over time and demonstrate the severity and duration of your suffering.
  • Supporting evidence: Any additional evidence that can corroborate your claim of emotional distress, such as photographs, videos, or written statements, should be presented to the court.

Are you struggling with emotional distress? Contact a lawyer.

If you are struggling with emotional distress and believe you may have a legal claim, it is essential to seek the guidance of an experienced personal injury lawyer. Emotional distress cases can be complex, requiring a thorough understanding of the law and the ability to build a strong case. 

They can assess the circumstances of your situation, gather evidence, negotiate with the involved parties, and represent your interests in court if necessary.