There is no definitive situation or action that can cause mental anguish or the occurrence of a mental health disorder. People with a history of mental health issues can be more susceptible but everyone reacts to experiences differently. This makes it challenging for the legal system to legislate such matters, but progress has been made in recent years to allow plaintiffs the right to sue for disruptions to the quality of their lives that is not caused by physical pain.
It is standard practice to diagnose physical injuries like a broken leg or concussion, and it is a more straightforward process to determine financial damages based on these types of injuries. Mental anguish is a broad term that covers any pain and suffering or mental disorder recognized by the psychiatric community. Most commonly, it refers to:
- Anxiety and stress
- Mood disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Development of fears and phobias
Consequences and Treatments
Mental anguish can impact one’s ability to live a meaningful life or fulfil the responsibilities of their occupation. It can affect their ability as a caregiver or parent, and negatively impact personal relationships and social lives. Being gripped by depression or anxiety can make it very difficult to function daily.
Unfortunately, there is no standard for treating mental health disorders. Each treatment is dependent on the patient, their personal history, their family history and the specific disorder. Regardless, most treatments require a substantial investment of time and money.
Proving Mental Anguish
Proving the severity of one’s depression or anxiety and to what extent it has impacted their ability to live and work is complicated. It is not like a physical injury where a broken leg will prevent a server from performing the duties of their job.
A motor vehicle accident could cause anxiety that would hinder someone from driving again. A dog bite could prevent the victim from walking through a park or visiting a friend’s home without severe anxiety. These instances and others convey how victims could respond emotionally to an experience that caused injury, either physical or psychological.
The burden falls on the plaintiff to prove the impairment and demonstrate the impact on one or more aspects of their life. To have the best chance at seeking damages for pain and suffering, a plaintiff should:
- Outline the psychological disorder they are afflicted with
- Ensure all documentation, supported by licensed mental health professionals, is in order
- Prove that it has impacted their ability to work
- Prove that it has impacted other areas of their life—social, recreational, etc.
- Concretely prove the causation between the defendant’s actions or negligence and the mental anguish or psychological disorder
A plaintiff can sue on the grounds of mental anguish if:
- The psychological impact was a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions or negligence
- A mental illness, recognized by the psychiatric community, was caused by the defendant’s actions or negligence
Simply put, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant knew they were causing mental anguish, or that what they did was so severe that it was foreseeable that a recognized mental illness could reasonably emerge. In Ontario, mental anguish falls under the category of bodily damage. A plaintiff can seek damages through tort law.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that occurs after a person has experienced a traumatic and profound event. It is commonly diagnosed in soldiers, police officers, paramedics or victims of natural disasters, sexual assault or life-threatening situations.
The symptoms are anxiety, hyperarousal, flashbacks and depression. It can force those afflicted to withdraw from friends, family and work. Plaintiffs could seek damages for PTSD if diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional and it is believed that the defendant’s actions or negligence directly led to the disorder. In such cases medical evidence is vital.
Understand if You Have a Case
The personal injury lawyers at Mackesy Smye can help you seek damages for mental anguish caused by another party. We will work tirelessly and strategically to prepare your case and pursue a trial or settlement that will compensate you for any mental anguish you have wrongly suffered. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.