The law varies depending on the jurisdiction, but many states permit such recovery. In Alabama, for example, damages for mental distress that accompanies a physical injury may be awarded by a jury where a person was wrongfully hurt. Thus, the worry and depression related to a disc herniation and its consequences can be the subject of a verdict award. Where there is no physical injury, and the other party is guilty of negligence, Alabama follows a "zone of danger" rule adopted by the Alabama Supreme Court in 1998. Under this rule, a company or person who negligently puts a person in immediate risk of physical danger (such as causing a fire from which a person escapes without an actual burn) is responsible for mental distress or mental anguish.
"Intentional torts" (where a party’s conduct is worse than mere negligence, such as intentional assault, defamation, fraud or misrepresentation) can also warrant mental distress damage awards. In Alabama, breaches of certain types of contracts, such as some related to homes, can be the foundation of emotional distress damages. (For further discussion of cases, see Alabama Tort Law, 4th edition, Lexis Law Publishing.)
A Cum Laude Honors graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Alabama tort law expert Mike Roberts has successfully litigated cases covering civil litigation, personal injury, negligence, product liability, wrongful death and fraud. He is the author of six editions of Alabama Tort Law, and is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.