Psychology Expert Evaluations & Emotional Distress Damages

Attorneys Jayme L. Burns and Gary Gwilliam write that traditionally many attorneys relied only on the testimony of their client to establish emotional distress damages to the jury.

Recently, plaintiffs’ attorneys are relying more and more on expert psychological evaluations of the client and the testimony of both expert and lay witnesses on the impact loss of employment has had on the emotional well-being of the employee.

This is particularly important because there is no precise standard for measuring damages from emotional distress. Instead, jurors are instructed to “use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense.” See California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI, 2003 ed.) No. 3095A: Physical Pain, Mental Suffering, and Emotional Distress (Non-economic Damages). Thus, it is up to the attorney to assist the jury in evaluating the extent of the emotional distress damages suffered by the particular plaintiff in the loss of their employment. Because emotional distress damages are not easily calculable the way damages for lost wages and loss of benefits, an expert evaluation of the client’s mental state and the psychological impact the loss of employment has had on the client is essential. It is further important to show the profound psychological impact on the employee to contest allegations of failure to mitigate damages when the discharged employee is so demoralized from the termination that they cannot bring themselves to reenter the job market.

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About Karen Olson

Information Professional with twenty years experience in legal, public record, and business research. Fifteen years law firm experience.

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