Medical malpractice

Can I Seek Compensation for Emotional Distress Caused by a Doctor?

California allows people to go after money damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress in several situations, including medical malpractice. Our state recognizes both intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

You will want to talk to a California medical malpractice attorney about whether you can seek compensation for emotional distress caused by a doctor. These cases can be challenging to win, but they are not impossible.

What Is Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?

You cannot sue people every time someone hurts your feelings. A successful claim for compensation against someone else for negligent infliction of emotional distress requires severe emotional distress. 

Here are a few things that are unlikely to create liability on the part of the doctor for negligent infliction of emotional distress: 

  • You went to the doctor’s office for an appointment but the doctor was delayed in surgery on another patient, so you had to reschedule your appointment. The doctor was not negligent. Rather, the doctor was giving full attention to the patient at hand.
  • Your doctor ran some tests based on your symptoms and diagnosed you with cancer. There was no missed diagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose. The doctor did not cause your cancer. The doctor was not negligent.

Now let’s look at situations that could be examples of negligent infliction of emotional distress: 

  • The doctor committed medical malpractice by performing “wrong side” surgery and removing your one healthy kidney instead of your diseased kidney. You will have to be on dialysis for the rest of your life or until a compatible kidney donor is found, if ever. The doctor’s negligence caused you to suffer extreme emotional distress.
  • Your doctor overlooked the results of your Pap smear from your annual gynecological exam. The results showed an abnormality which was consistent with early cervical cancer. By the time the doctor correctly diagnosed you at your next year’s exam, your cancer was advanced and had spread to other organs. You will need to undergo cancer treatment which, given the fact that the cancer has metastasized, might not be successful.  
  • Your child’s pediatrician prescribed a medication intended to treat asthma. The doctor miscalculated and prescribed the adult dose rather than the pediatric does. Your child experienced a side effect that became fatal. The doctor’s negligence caused the death of your child, which caused you to suffer emotional distress. 

Negligent infliction of emotional distress claims get decided on a case by case basis. You will want to consult with a personal injury lawyer to find out if you might have a claim.

The Elements of Negligence

There are three basic components to negligence: a legal duty, a breach of the duty, and harm caused by the breach.

  • Healthcare professionals have a legal duty of care to provide medical services at the appropriate standard of quality to their patients.
  • If a doctor delivers substandard medical attention to their patients, they have violated the duty of care. A violation of a duty of care is negligence.
  • The negligence must be the thing that caused the harm to the victim. 

When a doctor is negligent, and that carelessness caused someone to suffer severe emotional distress, that person might have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. A California personal injury attorney can help you seek justice and hold the doctor accountable for the harm you suffered. For legal help, contact our office today, we gladly offer a free consultation.