Establishing The Negligent Infliction Of Emotional Distress

An experienced personal injury attorney may help with any potential claims for injuries incurred as a result of any type of accident case, whether caused by a motor vehicle, slip-and-fall, or other circumstance. All of these circumstances may result in mental or emotional injuries that forever debilitate its victim. Unfortunately, these types of injuries are often hard to prove in a court of law.

Negligent claims for emotional distress include those based upon all types of accidents, defective products, falling objects, and medical malpractice. However, emotional distress claims are typically related to motor vehicle accidents.

The direct form of infliction of emotional distress results from the imminent apprehension of bodily harm to themselves by the negligent conduct of another. Thus, most victims of personal injury experience some type of emotional distress with varying levels of severity.

Some states require that both victims and their family members may only recover damages for emotional distress if these damages may be connected to a physical injury. Known as the “Impact Rule,” this rule is no longer the law in Pennsylvania.

Emotional distress may also be “indirect” and occur when close family members, such as spouses, parents and children, witness an accident while in the “zone of danger” created by the defendant’s negligent conduct. Pennsylvania adopted the “Zone of Danger” rule in 1970, replacing the Impact Rule. However, like the Impact Rule, the Zone of Danger rule is no longer the law in Pennsylvania. Both rules were considered to be arbitrary and illogical.

Instead, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court looked to the concept of foreseeability and decided that claims for emotional distress should be limited to those situations where the plaintiff meets the following requirements:

  1. the plaintiff was located in close proximity to the accident scene;
  2. the distress resulted from the plaintiff’s contemporaneous sensory observation of the event or accident; and
  3. the plaintiff and the victim were closely related.

An effective way to prove emotional distress is to articulate its symptoms, which may include depression, anxiety, guilt, insomnia, and loss of consortium. The more prevalent a plaintiff’s mental anguish, the greater the likelihood of proving that emotional distress affected a plaintiff’s mental state, thus meriting compensation. Mental anguish that recurs for long periods of time may have long-term effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Expert psychiatric testimony may be necessary in this situation.

Tangible evidence of emotional distress may be in the form of a professional evaluation or narrative detailing the condition. Letters and affidavits from people with whom the injured party is acquainted also provide helpful evidence. A detailed list of medication, especially those for depression and anxiety, also may offer some definitive proof of emotional distress. Claimants may also keep a diary of their daily pain, thoughts and feelings to further substantiate a claim.

If you or a loved one has suffered any type of injury resulting from any type of accident, contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777 or visit us online. The attorneys and staff of Powell Law carry on the work of a law firm that spans generations and has represented thousands of Pennsylvanians over a period of 113 years. The consultation is free and you don’t pay any fees unless we win your case! Call today.


Establishing The Negligent Infliction Of Emotional Distress

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