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

Doctors are obligated to prevent harm, and when this obligation is breached, the resulting emotional distress and trauma can be life-changing. Unfortunately, not every person impacted by the traumatic event is entitled to compensation for the trauma and distress they experienced.

Georgia is one of seven states that follow the impact rule when it comes to seeking compensation for emotional distress. This means that only individuals who sustained physical harm or financial damage from the incident are allowed to seek compensation for their pain and suffering.

Most states have gotten rid of this rule, but Georgia still currently follows it. For individuals with eligible cases, an Atlanta, Georgia medical malpractice attorney would be the best person to call for help with their cases.

What is the Impact Rule?

In order to recover damages for mental anguish or emotional distress in the state of Georgia, there are a few criteria that need to be met. The state’s Impact Rule states that the party attempting to sue has to have either:

  1. Physical injury as a direct result of the incident
  2. Actual monetary loss due to the emotional distress

In Coon v. The Medical Center, Inc., one of the most famous cases out of the state of Georgia pertaining to the Impact Rule, the Court of Appeals held the ruling that a grieving mother was unable to prove financial or physical damages after a hospital mishandled her stillborn baby’s remains. She had a funeral and burial, then later found out the hospital had mixed up the remains and gave her another family’s baby.

This caused great emotional distress in an already difficult time. Unfortunately, because the mother had not been harmed physically and the cost of multiple burials was not caused by her emotional distress, she was unsuccessful in recovering emotional damages due to the incident.

Based on the Impact Rule, financial loss as a direct result of emotional distress would include:

  • The cost of therapy to deal with the emotional damages
  • Lost wages if they have to miss shifts to attend related appointments
  • Medical treatment related to injuries sustained during the incident


According to the court system in Georgia, one of the reasons they continue to recognize the Impact Rule is as a way to prevent being overwhelmed with cases from every single witness of a serious accident or another tragic event. One of the biggest downsides of this law is that it does not cover wrongful death cases, parents who witness their children’s death, or children who witness a parents’ death, whether it was intentional or due to medical negligence.

Damages for Emotional Distress

For the patients that were involved, it can be a lot easier to have a successful medical malpractice case than for a family member. There are a number of things that can go wrong in a hospital, resulting in emotional distress including:

  • Incorrect cancer diagnosis
  • Medical negligence, especially resulting in serious physical injuries, including birth injuries

One of the most challenging parts of a personal injury case is proving emotional distress. Medical malpractice claims are fairly common, and hospitals generally can afford quality attorneys. Their legal representation is skilled in defending their clients, so it’s important to document as much as possible so you can be reimbursed for your financial losses. A medical malpractice attorney is a great person to have on your side to help you win your case.

What Else Can You Sue for in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

If you believe you have been the victim of medical negligence you may be able to bring a malpractice suit against the party that was negligent. However, in order to do this you must be able to prove the basic legal elements that define medical malpractice. If this can be done then it may be possible to recover monetary compensation for your damages.

The requirements for medical malpractice in Georgia are:

  • The doctor owed you a duty of care – This means that the doctor and the patient had already established a pre-existing doctor-patient relationship. Once the doctor-patient relationship has been established, the doctor then legally owes the patient a duty of care with the same treatment, skill, and care as any other physician. The doctor does not owe this duty of care until the relationship is established, however.
  • The actions or inactions of the doctor breached the established duty of care – This means that there must be some quantifiable action or inaction that caused the duty of care to be breached. If it may be proven that the doctor did, or didn’t do, something that any other reasonable doctor would or wouldn’t have done, then there may have been a breach.
  • The subsequently breached duty was the direct cause of your injury – If it is able to be proven that there was a breach of duty, then it should follow that there should also be a provable link to the injury in a valid personal injury claim. This injury should be the source of your damages.
  • You sustained some form of damages – This is one of the more difficult things to prove, and is one of the reasons it is always best to work with an attorney. You must be able to prove that in addition to all of the previous stipulations, you can prove that you have sustained measurable and quantifiable damages. These can be economic or non-economic damages in some cases, but they must be documented and able to be directly attributable to the injury.

How a Georgia Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help You

If you believe your case fits the bill and you want to sue a doctor for emotional distress, the first step to seeking compensation for emotional distress caused by a doctor is contacting a medical malpractice lawyer to set up a consultation. When it comes to suing your doctors and being reimbursed for economic damages after being impacted by medical malpractice, a medical malpractice attorney can help you through the process. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

The Balams Firm

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Alpharetta, GA 30009

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ReShea Balams

ReShea Balams is an award winning attorney and the founder of The Balams Firm.  Prior to answering her true calling to represent families impacted by life-changes tragedies, ReShea gained invaluable experience and insight as an attorney for large insurance companies.  She is known for her record of exceptional results on behalf of clients, and is a zealous advocate for injury victims.

  • American Association for Justice
  • Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
  • Atlanta Bar Association
  • Gate City Bar Association
  • The National Crime Victim Bar Association
  • State Bar of Georgia
  • The National Trial Lawyers - Top 40 Under 40
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