Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress to Witnesses in Car Accidents

Some states do let you sue for negligence infliction of emotional distress to others during car accidents. Some states even have rules that are used to figure out the elements necessary to sue for this. In Texas and California for example, they can sue for this, and it’s called NIED (negligent infliction of emotional distress) if the driver did cause the bystanders to suffer from this. 

However, this does depend on the state and how compensation is done. 

The Elements 

There are a few elements that go into NIED, and they include three parts. 

First, is the impact rule, in that the actions did cause physical contact, and it might cause minor or major impact including something as small as being hit by a rock to as big as an explosion. 

The next part, is the zone of danger rule, and this does require the plaintiff to be in the area of the negligent defendant, especially when they were at risk of harm physically. Most states do follow this rule, since it does limit the claims based on the injury fear. 

Finally, there is the foreseeability rule, which is where the defendant needs to predict reasonably that the actions did cause negative responses within the plaintiff, and it doesn’t require the physical harm towards those that are there. 

When Will Emotional Distress be Foreseeable to the At-Fault Driver 

Foreseeability is whether or not it’s reasonable or prudent to see the harm that could result from the conduct of the at-fault driver. 

There is the bystander theory, and it involves the following that must be proven for someone to be able to fault the driver. 

First, the accident victim and plaintiff must be related. 

The second thing, is that the plaintiff must be at the scene of where the accident or injury is. 

The third, is the plaintiff did suffer from emotional distress, more than that of a disinterested bystander as well. 

Do I need to be Harmed or In Danger to Sue? 

Depending on where you are, and whether bystanders can sue for this, they don’t necessarily need to be harmed, or in danger of this in order to sue the other person. 

The bystander must however meet the following for them to be eligible. 

They must be closely related to the person who was hit in the accident. 

They must also have witnessed the accident and was aware that the victim was injured during this. 

Third, the bystander experienced some kind of emotional distress from this, and it could be more than just disinterest that the bystander felt when witnessing. 

When it is someone “closely related” to the victim, this includes family members, or people who live in the same home. Unmarried people other than domestic partners are not eligible for this though. 

How to Avoid Liability for Negligent Emotional Distress Infliction 

How do you avoid this? 

Well if you’re sued for this, the best thing for you to do is to get a defense attorney that can show that the emotional distress was not able to be foreseen. The plaintiff needs to show that the person didn’t know it would happen, and in most instances, this is in the cases where the bystander isn’t related to the victim of the accident, such as maybe a friend or something.

Regardless, if you’re dealing with the emotional distress of any kind, you should speak to a personal injury attorney that’ll help you know your rights, build the case up, and help represent your best interests within the process so you can be compensated.

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