mental suffering

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Also called “mental anguish”, mental suffering refers to discomfort, dysfunction, or distress of the mind; usually the kind that results from physical pain or injury. It also refers to emotional pain and suffering (including highly unpleasant emotions like anxiety, depression, anguish, grief, fright, humiliation, or fury) that result from another person’s conduct.

It is important to note that regardless of whether the discomfort is mental or emotional, it is usually caused by some external source and, when severe enough, may provide a basis for recovering damages in tort. Physical injury is not generally required to recover damages for mental suffering, so long as it is reasonable to presume that mental trauma would naturally flow from the incident. The standard used to measure the reasonableness of such an assumption is an objective one and most states have compensation caps on noneconomic damages – between $250,000 and $500,000 for total noneconomic damages.

According to the Restatement Second of Torts § 46, emotional distress is to be expected as part of the price of living among people. The law is meant to intervene only when the distress inflicted is so severe that no reasonable man could be expected to endure it. To evaluate the severity of a claimant’s distress, judges will usually consider the intensity, duration, and character of the defendant’s conduct.

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[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]