What Is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?


Under the law, you can seek damages for an injury that is intentionally caused, or one that results from carelessness or negligence. As a practical matter, nearly all personal injury claims are based on a legal theory of negligence. In addition, it’s generally easier to recover for tangible losses, such as wages and income or medical expenses. The law does, however, allow you to pursue compensation for less tangible injury, such as emotional distress. One of the more prevalent claim involves an allegation of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

What Is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

To constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress, the defendant’s actions must meet the following tests:

  • There was extreme or outrageous conduct
  • Intentionally or recklessly taken
  • That caused severe emotional distress

If the severe emotional distress leads to bodily harm, the defendant will also be liable for damages related to that injury.

Extreme or Outrageous Conduct

As a general rule, the conduct necessary to constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress must be more than merely offensive—it must exceed all reasonable concepts of decency or civility. While ordinary insults typically don’t rise to the level of outrageous conduct, they might when the perpetrator knows that the victim has a unique susceptibility to emotional distress. For example, if the defendant knows that the victim’s child was killed in a car accident, repeated statements about children dying in motor vehicle accidents may be considered outrageous conduct.

Intent or Recklessness

The person causing the emotional distress must act with knowledge or purpose, or with what is considered a deliberate disregard for the consequences of his or her actions.

Severe Emotional Distress

Typically, to successfully prosecute a personal injury claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiff must show that no reasonable person should have to endure the outrageous conduct. Whether or not that has been proven is up to the jury.

Contact the Law Offices of Mallon & Tranger

To learn how we can help you if you have been injured in the workplace, contact us online or call us at 732-410-6094 (toll free at 877-320-0692). There is no charge for your first meeting. We have offices in Freehold, Toms River and Point Pleasant.

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