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Can I Sue My Ex for Emotional Distress?

The Torres Law Firm  Feb. 14, 2024

The end of a relationship can sometimes be just as traumatic as it is liberating. But when the dust settles, and the emotional turmoil lingers, many find themselves pondering, "Can I sue my ex for emotional distress?"

The short answer is: Yes, it's possible. However, it's important to note that these cases can be complex and require a thorough understanding of the law.  

The thought of legal action can seem like a path to closure or justice, and if this is something that you want to do, it's important to understand your rights and options.  

At The Torres Law Firm — serving individuals in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the surrounding areas, including Dallas and Fort Worth — our skilled civil law attorneys are committed to helping you understand your legal rights. If you're here because you've suffered emotional distress at the hands of your ex-partner, our hearts go out to you. Reach out to us today; we're here to provide guidance and support during this difficult time. 

Understanding Emotional Distress 

Emotional distress refers to the mental anguish or emotional harm one suffers due to the actions of another. This can include feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It's not merely being upset; it's a serious condition that can have far-reaching impacts on one's life. 

There are numerous issues surrounding emotional distress lawsuits. These can include proving the severity of your emotional distress, demonstrating the other party's culpability, and navigating the complexities of the legal system. It's not an easy path, but with the right help, it's entirely possible. 

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress vs. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Lawsuits for emotional distress typically fall under two categories: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED). Both require different criteria to be met, and it's crucial to understand the differences between them. 


Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) occurs when one individual deliberately or recklessly engages in extreme or outrageous behavior that is intended to cause severe emotional distress to another person. The requirements to establish IIED include:  

  • Outrageous and extreme conduct by the defendant. 

  • The intent to cause, or disregard of a high probability of causing, emotional distress. 

  • A causal connection between the conduct and the distress. 

  • The emotional distress must be severe, and no reasonable person should be expected to endure it. 

Penalties for IIED can include compensatory damages for the distress suffered and, in some cases, punitive damages intended to punish the wrongdoer for their outrageous conduct. 


Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED), on the other hand, involves causing emotional distress through negligent acts rather than intentional or reckless ones. The requirements for NIED are: 

  • The defendant must have acted negligently, breaching a duty of care owed to the plaintiff 

  • The plaintiff must have suffered emotional distress as a direct result of the breach of duty 

  • The emotional distress must be medically diagnosable and sufficiently substantial to result in physical symptoms in some cases. 

Penalties for NIED typically include compensatory damages, aimed at covering the costs associated with the distress, such as medical bills and therapy costs. Punitive damages are less common in NIED cases unless the negligence is particularly egregious. 

The Process for Suing for Emotional Distress 

To successfully sue for emotional distress, one must navigate a series of legal steps. Here is an outline of the general process: 

  1. Seek legal counsel: Consult with an experienced attorney who can advise you on the merits of your case and the appropriate legal strategies to employ. 

  2. Document your claim: Gather all relevant evidence, such as medical records, therapist statements, and any other documentation that supports the claim of emotional distress. 

  3. Establish a case: With your attorney, you will need to prove that the defendant’s actions directly caused your emotional distress and that the distress was severe enough to be actionable. 

  4. File a lawsuit: Your attorney will draft and file a formal complaint with the court, initiating your legal action against the defendant. 

  5. Engage in discovery: Both parties will exchange information and evidence regarding the case. This may include depositions, requests for documents, and interrogatories. 

  6. Attempt to settle: Before the case goes to trial, there is often an opportunity to settle outside of court through mediation or negotiation. 

  7. Go to trial (if necessary): If a settlement cannot be reached, your case will move to trial, where a judge or jury will determine the outcome. 

  8. Enforce the judgment: If you win your case, you may need to take additional legal steps to collect the damages awarded by the court.  

It is important to adhere to each step carefully and within the prescribed legal time frames. 

Don't Navigate This Journey Alone

At The Torres Law Firm, we stand ready to help you navigate this challenging situation. Our team in Corpus Christi, Texas, is equipped with the knowledge and experience to guide you through every step of the process. 

If you believe you have a case for emotional distress after a divorce, separation, or break-up, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We're here to listen, provide advice, and if necessary, represent you in court. Remember, you don't have to go through this alone - The Torres Law Firm is here to help.