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Suing for Emotional Distress in New York Personal Injury Cases

Seth Harris

Last modified on October 12, 2023

Suing for Emotional Distress in New York Personal Injury Cases

You go through a wide range of reactions when you’ve been injured in an accident caused by someone else. You’ll have pain, yes, but during and after such an experience, you might also struggle with emotional distress.

Distress resulting from an accident or injuries can seriously impact your quality of life. Suing is an option in some NYC personal injury cases.

Our NYC personal injury lawyers at Harris, Keenan & Goldfarb are prepared to answer your questions on this topic. We’ll review your case to determine whether you can pursue emotional distress compensation. Call our office today at 1-800-PAIN-LAW or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress vs. Intentional Infliction

Emotional distress in the context of an NYC personal injury claim or lawsuit may fall under one of these categories:

  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED)
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED)

NIED involves a party carelessly causing someone to experience mental or emotional distress. Typically, physical injuries must accompany the distress to prove NIED.

IIED occurs when a party causes distress through extreme recklessness or intentional actions. An example of IIED might involve a nursing home abuse case.

Perhaps a resident of a nursing home fears for their safety when left alone for prolonged periods of time. Maybe a staff member knows this. IIED could occur if the staff member intentionally isolates the resident, knowing the distress this may cause.

No specific statute defines what constitutes NIED or IIED and what does and doesn’t. This is an area of New York law that has developed over time as a result of various court decisions.

That means the law may continue to evolve. Thus, when suing, you need legal representation. Personal injury attorneys familiar with the law know how to prove that you deserve compensation for emotional harm.

Common Types of Emotional Distress Claims in NYC

Various types of cases and accidents may involve emotional distress in NYC. Examples include:

Any injury or accident that causes emotional or mental anguish might allow a person to sue for emotional distress. What matters most is proving emotional distress resulting from negligence or intentional actions.

Suing for Emotional Distress in NYC: Calculating Compensation

To some extent, losses a person sustains due to emotional distress in New York can have specific dollar values. For example, if someone’s emotional distress is significant enough that they need psychiatric care, they may account for the cost of their treatment when filing a compensation claim.

However, emotional distress is a non-economic loss. This type of loss is intangible and doesn’t have a specific dollar value. A similar type of loss is pain and suffering.

When negotiating for a settlement that includes emotional distress, personal injury attorneys may use a variety of methods to calculate appropriate compensation. Two common methods are:

  • The Multiplier Method involves adding up all of an injured party’s economic losses, like lost wages and medical expenses. An attorney multiplies this sum by a number between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of an injured party’s condition and emotional distress.
  • The Per Diem Method involves determining the daily monetary value of an injured party’s pain and suffering or emotional distress. The injured person may receive compensation for every day they endured this suffering. For example, maybe their suffering has a daily “value” of $50. Perhaps they endured this pain and suffering for 200 days. They may be entitled to $10,000 in compensation for such losses in this scenario.

When Is Suing Not an Option in NYC?

There are instances when injured parties in New York may not seek compensation for emotional distress. For example, perhaps you’ve been injured in a car accident. Because New York is a no-fault state, your first means of seeking compensation would be to file a claim with your insurance.

Registered car owners in NYC must purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, according to the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS). This form of insurance allows an injured party to seek compensation after a car accident without proving negligence. However, PIP coverage doesn’t apply to emotional distress.

Or, maybe you sustain injuries in a work-related accident. Because virtually all NYC employers must buy workers’ compensation insurance, you could seek compensation by filing a claim for workers’ comp benefits. New York workers’ comp benefits don’t cover emotional distress.

That’s not to say suing is never an option in these circumstances. A car accident victim can sue if someone else caused their accident and their injuries qualify as “serious.” They might also be entitled to sue the at-fault party if the injured person exhausts their PIP coverage.

In addition, an injured worker may file a third-party claim against a negligent party other than their employer that caused the accident that harmed them. Doing so could allow them to seek compensation for emotional distress in a claim or lawsuit.

How to Prove Emotional Distress in an NYC Personal Injury Case

Suing for Emotional Distress in New York Personal Injury CasesVarious types of evidence may help an injured party and their attorney prove distress. Examples include:

  • Medical records
  • Expert testimony
  • Personal testimony and testimony of witnesses
  • A journal or log in which an injured party describes their emotional distress
  • In some cases, video demonstrating the way emotional trauma manifests in a victim’s life

Contact a New York Personal Injury Lawyer Today

At Harris, Keenan & Goldfarb, our NYC personal injury lawyers can evaluate your case and determine whether suing is an option in your circumstances. If it is, we’ll gather the evidence needed to show why you deserve compensation for emotional anguish. Get started today by calling us at 1-800-PAIN-LAW or contacting us online for a free case review.

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A Brooklyn jury awarded Mr. Vargas $17.5 million for the City of New York’s violation of his civil rights for failing to provide him medical care while in custody. The jury found that the police officers involved failed to provide the necessary medical treatment and awarded $17.5 million to Mr. Vargas.



Harris Keenan & Goldfarb partners Seth Harris and Sheri Holland obtained a $4,730,398.00 jury verdict on behalf of our client who tripped and fell at a private apartment building in the Bronx, suffering a broken foot that developed a very painful, permanent neurological condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (“RSD”).



A Bronx jury awarded John Doe over $12 million for an accident on a construction site. John Doe was working when a piece of scaffold weighing 35 pounds fell, striking John Doe in the lower back. John Doe suffered a herniated disc requiring surgical removal of a portion of the disc and permanent nerve damage.



A Bronx jury awarded $10.5 million to the mother of Malcolm Ferguson, who was wrongfully shot and killed by the New York City Police Department. The police officer, Louis Rivera, also a defendant in the case, was found to have used excessive force in violation of Malcolm Ferguson’s civil rights as protected under the United States Constitution.



A Bronx jury awarded plaintiff William Cardoza $4 million for injuries caused by the use of excessive force during an arrest. During the arrest, Mr. Cardoza was pepper-sprayed and repeatedly hit with a police nightstick. As a result, Mr. Cardoza sustained injuries to his hand and finger.



The firm’s client, a 33-year-old teacher’s assistant, was scalded by an espresso machine that exploded while the defendant’s employee was demonstrating how the machine worked. The client was a customer at the defendant’s coffee shop on the date of the accident and suffered first-degree burns to her right (dominant) hand.



The firm represented the mother- decedent and her infant son. During the decedent’s admission to the defendant hospital, the defendant dispensed anesthesia during an epidural to the decedent in an inadequate manner. The mother-decedent suffered personal injuries and wrongful death due to the defendant’s failure to properly administer epidural anesthesia.



Mr.Brennan fell from approximately 25 feet while working on a construction project. He suffered a shattered bone in his right leg requiring surgery and hardware placement. Mr. Brennan also suffered two fractures in his facial bones, and a dislocated finger requiring surgical repair.



The firm’s client was a child with cerebral palsy who was injured as a result of medical malpractice. The firm’s clients claimed improper management of pregnancy, labor, and delivery resulting in brain damage, and received a Brooklyn personal injury settlement.



The firm’s client, a 63-year-old mentally incompetent man, slipped and fell in his own urine while attempting to walk to the bathroom at the defendant’s senior citizen home. The client fractured his hip and as a result is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The client claimed that the staff of the home failed to properly care for him, and the jury awarded $1,677,835.



The firm’s client, a 47-year-old male, slipped and fell on a public sidewalk in the Bronx. It had snowed four to five days prior to the date of the accident, and the sidewalk was covered with ice. The client suffered a lumbar fracture and a herniated disc. The jury found the city liable and awarded the client a $2,995,000 personal injury settlement in the Bronx.



A Bronx jury awarded plaintiff Luis Molina $2.61 million for injuries sustained when he fell down a subway station stairway. Mr. Molina was caused to slip and fall as a result of a plastic bag that had blown onto the steps from a street opening. As a result of the fall, Mr. Molina suffered a herniated disc and a tear of his right shoulder’s rotator cuff. The jury found that the NYC Transit Authority was liable for the accident.



A Bronx jury awarded Ms. Colon $2.25 million for a trip and fall accident. Ms. Colon was caused to fall when she moved to the right to allow another pedestrian to pass, and her foot rolled to the outside due to the sidewalk being unlevel with the adjoining grass. The jury found the defendant liable and awarded Ms. Colon $2,253,714.00 for her pain and suffering.



A Brooklyn jury awarded Arvella Floyd $1.9 million for a fractured wrist which required multiple surgeries, including an open-reduction internal fixation and a carpal tunnel release. Ms. Floyd was injured when the hot water knob of the shower fell off after numerous complaints to the superintendent, and scalding water spewed toward her, causing her to
fall and break her wrist.



A Bronx jury awarded plaintiff Juanita Young $1,350,000 for injuries caused by the use of excessive force during an arrest. During the arrest, Ms. Young, who is legally blind, was handcuffed from behind, with her children watching, and taken to the top of the stairs to exit the building. The officer proceeded to push her down the stairs multiple times.

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I am completely satisfied, and recommend Harris Keenan & Goldfarb as Attorneys to represent anyone. Their care for me physically, and overall helped me stay strong in spite of my injuries. Always available to answer questions, and inform.They got me Justice, and achieved a substantial outcome for my case.I am very impressed, and thankful for their outstanding performance on my behalf.I am very pleased, and significantly satisfied with their representation.‐-Sherylon Wilkins
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Gene Matos (fanboye)Gene Matos (fanboye)
18:48 15 Jan 24
I first crossed paths with Seth Harris when serving jury duty many years ago. He was so professional and personable, that when my mom was seeking legal counsel for medical malpractice, I told her she had to reach out to his firm. We had meetings with a few different firms, but Harris Keenan & Goldfarb was the only firm that did not try to get us to sign paperwork before even meeting. They took the time to listen and understand our situation before we signed anything, and they were transparent and responsive the whole time. I would like to give special thanks to Samantha Walton, Marla Stein, Val Wallace and Seth Harris for helping my mom through this tough time. They were honest and upfront, and even though Seth Harris wasn't personally on the case, he took the time to meet with us and give us his thoughts on it.
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I am pleased with the services provided by Ms Sheri on my case. The team at Harris, Keenan, & Goldfarb were very nice and explained everything to me. Everything that I had questions on they answered without frustration and were prompt and knowledgeable.6 years ago I had a slip and fall accident at my employers place of business. I reached out to them because I knew that I was being wrongfully treated. They took care of the case, restored my self confidence, and brought so much peace to my problem riddled life.I can recommend without a shadow of a doubt the services of Harris, Keenan & Goldfarb to anyone who is in need of someone who will have your back!
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My mother had an accident with her ankle back in 2019. I immediately contacted Harris, Keenan & Goldfarb on the day of the accident. They were extremely prompt and helpful. They attended to my mother's case beautifully and she's been recovering well. I'd like to thank you for being so diligent, kind and above all professional. I'd recommend this law firm to anyone who are injured and in need of legal assistance. My mother, Andrea, and I thank you for everything.
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