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How Much Can I Sue For Emotional Distress? (Canada)


Date Posted:

June 5, 2024

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    Mental anguish and emotional distress can turn people’s lives upside down. Unlike a physical injury, however, the limitations that psychological distress can impose on your life are not visible to others. As such, some people face skepticism, and even denial, when it comes to the impacts of their mental distress. This situation becomes even more difficult if you are suffering from emotional distress as a result of an accident or negligence. 

    This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how much you can sue for emotional distress in Canada. We will explore the legal framework, the process of proving emotional distress, factors affecting compensation, and the importance of legal representation from an experienced Ottawa Personal Injury Lawyer. By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear understanding of your rights and the steps to take if you’re experiencing emotional distress.

    What is Emotional Distress?

    Emotional distress refers to the psychological injuries people can experience due to a traumatic event; it can manifest as various psychological conditions, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others. 

    Emotional distress can stem from both unexpected accidents and deliberate actions, each requiring careful consideration in a legal claim. The physical harm that results from serious accidents, such as a car crash, can also foster psychological trauma. Negligence, such as in cases of medical malpractice, can also lead to emotional harm.

    Emotional Distress Claims in Canada

    Canadian law allows individuals to seek compensation for harm caused by others. Emotional distress claims fall under this framework, requiring proof of certain legal elements. They are:

    1. Duty of Care: The defendant must have owed a duty of care to the plaintiff.
    2. Breach of Duty: The defendant must have breached this duty through their actions or negligence.
    3. Causation: The breach must have directly caused the emotional distress.
    4. Damages: The plaintiff must have suffered actual harm as a result.

    How Can You Prove Emotional Distress?

    There are two categories of emotional distress claims: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED), where someone intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional trauma through their conduct, and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED), where negligent actions result in significant emotional suffering.

    Unlike visible physical injuries, emotional distress and mental suffering are not obviously apparent, making it challenging to prove in personal injury lawsuits or insurance claims. Establishing emotional distress is, nonetheless, possible with the right supporting documentation and/or expert testimony. 

    Essential Elements of a Successful Emotional Distress Claim

    1. Medical Documentation: Psychiatric evaluations, therapy records, and medical reports are critical.
    2. Expert Testimony: Mental health professionals can attest to the severity of the emotional distress.
    3. Personal Impact Evidence: Demonstrating how the distress has affected your daily life, work, and relationships.

    Factors Affecting Compensation for Emotional Distress

    • Severity and Duration of Distress
    • Impact on Daily Life and Professional Abilities
    • Strength of Evidence and Documentation

    Determining compensation for emotional distress varies widely, with awards ranging from modest sums to substantial amounts. Severe and prolonged distress can exceed $100,000, especially if it leads to long-term psychological injury or significant life impairment. 

    Emotional Distress Claims in Different Contexts


    Situations involving harassment or discrimination can sometimes give rise to mental distress. Bullying or workplace harassment, discriminatory practices, and hostile work environments can each affect mental health and well-being, making it difficult or impossible for individuals to perform their duties without mental anguish. 

    Can you sue your employer for emotional distress in Canada?

    Yes, you can sue your employer for emotional distress in Canada under certain circumstances. In many situations, harassment, discrimination, or unsafe working conditions are the precursors to the emotional distress caused. 

    For a successful claim, it must be clearly demonstrated that your employer’s actions or negligence caused severe emotional suffering. 

    At McNally Gervan LLP, our experienced lawyers can help you navigate these complex claims; if you believe you have an emotional distress claim against your employer, contact us to discuss your case and explore your legal options.

    Personal Injuries & Intentional Acts

    Car accidents often result in significant emotional trauma for victims, as the sudden impact and potential for serious injury can be deeply unsettling. In a similar fashion, slip-and-fall incidents can also lead to emotional anguish, as the combination of physical harm and the feeling of vulnerability or injustice can significantly impact a person’s mental health, leading to lasting emotional distress.

    Assault victims often suffer severe emotional distress due to the sudden and violent nature of the attack, which can lead to long-term psychological issues. More common in situations where domestic abuse occurs, emotional trauma often results from sustained or pervasive abuse. This can create a constant state of fear and helplessness. 

    Can you sue someone for the emotional distress you have suffered because of something they did?

    Yes, you can sue someone for emotional distress they caused, particularly in cases of personal injuries and intentional acts. If personal injuries result from someone else’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation, which can include compensation for emotional distress. Likewise with intentional acts, such as assault or harassment, the severe emotional distress they can cause can provide the grounds for a legal claim.

    How Professional Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help 

    At McNally Gervan LLP, we understand the profound impact emotional distress can have on your life. The legal processes involved in emotional distress claims can be intricate and challenging to navigate. Having an expert guide can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case. 

    For both individuals seeking compensation and those trying to claim benefits, our team is here to help you understand your options as we work to protect your rights and interests. 

    We offer legal assistance for a wide variety of insurance claims. Our expertise includes navigating motor vehicle claims for accidents involving cars, trucks, and motorcycles; assisting with long-term and short-term disability claims; addressing property insurance claims for damages from fires, floods, or theft; helping beneficiaries obtain life insurance benefits after the loss of a loved one; and ensuring coverage for individuals diagnosed with severe health conditions under critical illness insurance.