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Emotional Distress in Legal Malpractice Actions


Generally speaking, plaintiffs in legal malpractice actions cannot recover damages for emotional distress resulting from the lawyer’s negligence (malpractice). However, damages for emotional distress may be available in legal malpractice actions where the client can prove:

1. The emotional distress was severe, and not merely a consequence of the economic harm the plaintiff suffered, and

2. The emotional distress was a natural consequence of (and caused by) the lawyer’s wrongful (professionally negligent) acts or omissions.

Moreover, emotional distress damages may be available if the attorney’s wrongful acts go beyond “mere negligence,” or cause non-economic injury (physical harm). For example, a lawyer who attempts to solicit sexual favors from a client in exchange for (or in addition to other payment for) legal services may be liable for damages relating to the client’s emotional distress–assuming, of course, that the client can prove the required legal elements of a claim for emotional distress.

Proving emotional distress can be difficult, even for clients who have suffered physical damages resulting from emotional harm. However, complexity alone is not a reason to forego a valid, legally-permitted claim. Clients or former clients of negligent attorneys should consult an experienced malpractice attorney promptly, and document all damages (including emotional distress) carefully, to protect and preserve their legal rights. If you believe that you have been injured–economically, emotionally, or otherwise–by the actions of your current or former counsel, consult an experienced attorney immediately. Delay could harm your legal rights or prevent you from recovering damages.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Malpractice (professional negligence) claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against an attorney who represented you, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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