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Words Matter in Egregious Emotional Distress Claims

by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.

Clinical & Forensic Psychologist

It's critical to understand the importance of word choice when conveying the severity of emotional distress—particularly egregious emotional distress. The Second Circuit in New York has signaled the use of specific words and phrases in describing the nature of the plaintiff's experience and their emotional and functional impairment.

To effectively capture the gravity of emotional distress and establish a proximate cause, it's essential to employ impactful words such as "outrageous," "shocking," "horrific," "devastating," "unbearable," and "traumatizing." These words paint a vivid picture of the level of distress experienced by the individual, aligning with the Second Circuit's expectations.

Furthermore, elucidating specific symptomatology in favor of clinical diagnoses should be indicated, including, but not limited to, "anxiety," "panic," "anger," "fear," "depression," insomnia," "avoidance behaviors," "intrusive repetitive recollections," "flashbacks," "hypervigilence," "an exagerated startle response," and "posttraumatic stress."

Moreover, it's important to appropriately use phrases like "profound emotional suffering," "irreparable harm," "immense anguish," and "life-altering effects" to convey the intensity and long-lasting repercussions of the distress as well as the plaintiff's prognosis.

By including these words and phrases in forensic psychological reports, attorneys can establish a compelling case for their clients, substantiating the presence of egregious emotional distress. This clarity enhances the report's credibility and helps attorneys persuasively argue their clients' emotional suffering before judges, juries, or mediators.


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