Can I Recover Damages for Emotional Distress in Missouri?


No one starts their day expecting an injury, but thousands of people experience painful, frightening injuries each day, often due to someone else’s carelessness or wrongdoing. When another party’s negligence or reckless behavior causes an injury, courts in Missouri offer injury victims a means of redress through a personal injury claim for damages. In this type of tort claim, the word “damages” refers to all of the consequences of an injury, both economic and non-economic. While economic damages are easy to calculate, including itemizable amounts for medical expenses, lost income, and related expenses, non-economic damages are intangible and more difficult to calculate. Still, non-economic damages are often the most devastating aspect of an injury.

Recovering damages for emotional distress in missouri

Common Personal Injury Claims in Missouri

We all have a responsibility to those around us to take reasonable actions to prevent causing them harm. For example, drivers must follow traffic laws and avoid distractions while behind the wheel. A store owner who has a leaky cooler leaving puddles on the floor where customers shop has a duty to promptly address the safety hazard to prevent those on the property from slipping and falling. When an individual or a business is careless and their carelessness results in injury to someone else, they are responsible for the injury victim’s expenses. Typically, payment for damages comes from the appropriate insurance policy, like auto insurance in a car accident claim and malpractice insurance in a medical malpractice claim. Common personal injury claims in Missouri include the following:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Motorcycle Accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Workplace injuries
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective product injuries
  • Acts of violence

All of the above accidents and injuries can cause both physical trauma and emotional distress to the victim.

What are Non-Economic Damages in a Missouri Personal Injury Claim?

Serious injuries have serious repercussions on the victim’s life. If you’ve experienced a life-altering injury, you may not be able to enjoy the activities and lifestyle you enjoyed before the injury, These changes could be temporary or permanent depending on the severity of the injury. Non-economic damages claimed in St. Louis personal injury claims focus on the intangible impacts of the injury, such as pain and suffering. Claiming pain and suffering for compensation is common in personal injury claims. Attorneys consult with medical experts and use formulas for calculating an amount of compensation appropriate for the victim’s pain and suffering and the length of time they’re expected to experience pain until they reach their maximum recovery level.

Although financial compensation cannot erase pain, it opens doors to the best possible medical care, relieves financial hardship, and provides injury victims with a sense of justice.

In some injury claims, victims claim other types of non-economic damages, most commonly for emotional distress.

Suing for Emotional Distress After an Injury in Missouri

Personal injuries are those that cause damage to a victim’s “person.” Often, severe injuries cause emotional trauma. Both the experience itself—like a serious car accident, a bad fall in a public place, or an act of violence—causes emotional trauma, and then facing a long recovery or permanent disability causes further distress.

In Missouri, victims of serious injuries caused by another person or business entity’s actions can file claims for compensation for their emotional distress, including symptoms such as the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • PTSD
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Diminished life quality

Missouri considers emotional distress a “damage” directly resulting from an injury such as a fall, dog bite, motorcycle accident, or an act of violence; therefore, victims may claim compensation for emotional distress in Missouri courts.

What If Emotional Distress is My Only Injury?

Like other states, Missouri requires victims to show tangible damages before making a claim for intangible damages like emotional distress. For example, a person cannot sue for emotional distress after a slip-and-fall accident in a cafe if they were able to get up, walk out, and never required medical care or time away from work while they healed. Injury victims have to provide evidence of financial losses associated with their injury, including from their distress.

Proving Emotional Distress Damages in Missouri

To successfully claim compensation for emotional damages, the injury victim has the burden of proof in the case. This requires demonstrating evidence of the at-fault party’s liability by showing that they owed a general duty of care to take reasonable measures to avoid causing injury to others, that they breached this duty of care, and that the breach of duty directly caused the victim’s injury. Then, the injury victim must prove that they suffered damages from the injury. Proving emotional distress requires evidence such as the following:

  • Testimony from therapists or psychologists
  • Receipts from therapy bills
  • Medical expert testimony about the impacts of the injury on a victim’s life
  • Testimony from family, friends, employers, and coworkers about the victim’s life after the injury compared to before the injury

Emotional distress following an injury can be severe and debilitating. It’s every bit as harmful to victims as their more visible physical injuries. Injury victims suffering from emotional distress deserve the maximum available compensation for their damages, but they must be able to show that their emotional distress is a direct result of their injury.

Does Missouri Cap the Amount of Compensation Available for Emotional Distress?

When calculating an amount of compensation for emotional distress, attorneys consider impacts on the victim’s life, such as their ability to work in their previous careers, the effects of the injury on the victim’s relationships, and their interactions with their children, and the duration of the emotional harm the victim has experienced and may continue to experience. Often, attorneys arrive at a figure for pain and suffering by multiplying the victim’s medical expenses by a number between 1 and 5 depending on the severity of the injury. This (multiplier) method also applies to emotional distress calculations.

Another method to determine an amount of compensation for emotional distress is the “Per Diem” method which examines the amount of distress the victim experiences and calculates an amount per day for the number of days the distress is likely to last according to medical experts.

Missouri does not place a cap on the amount an injury victim can claim for their emotional damages except in medical malpractice claims. Malpractice victims in Missouri may claim no more than $300,000 for non-catastrophic (life-altering) injuries and no more than $700,000 for catastrophic injuries.