If you have ever been involved in an injury-causing accident, you know that although the physical wounds of the accident eventually heal, the psychological trauma can persist for years. When this happens, it is important to know your rights and how best to protect them.
New York law provides compensation to accident victims affected by negligence, including compensation for non-economic damages such as emotional distress.
How to Claim Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Case
Two types of emotional distress claims exist under New York state law: intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) and negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED).
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)
You must show someone behaved in such a way that caused you severe emotional distress. The action must be extreme and go beyond the bounds of decency. IIED doesn’t require proof of physical injuries, though there must be some sort of extreme behavior to qualify for damages.
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED)
You need to prove that the other party’s negligent behavior caused your emotional distress. Proof of physical injuries is required alongside signs of emotional distress. Emotional distress must result from negligent behavior, such a car crash caused by another driver who was texting and driving or ignoring traffic signals.
What Evidence is Needed to Prove Emotional Distress
The jury will consider how your symptoms affected different aspects of everyday life, like school and work. You can use the following to prove you have suffered emotional distress:
- A journal that documents and calculates your emotional distress since and because of someone else’s actions.
- Your testimony about the emotional impact of an accident, such as flashbacks to the accident or inability to sleep.
- Testimonies from friends or family who can share their thoughts on how the accident has affected your quality of life.
- Witness testimony from a mental health practitioner.
- The length of time that you have suffered from emotional distress.
- Medical records as evidence to prove you are receiving treatment for emotional distress.
- Evidence of physical injuries. You can discuss them in-depth and how they affected your life, such as concussions or whiplash if you were in an accident.
When determining whether you should receive damages, the jury can examine the severity and duration of your emotion distress. They can get a clear picture of the emotional trauma you experienced when you present the types of evidence discussed above.
The Zone of Danger Rule: Another Way to Prove Emotional Distress
If you were in the zone of danger when a family member had an accident that led to death or serious injury, then you may seek damages for emotional distress. The “zone of danger” rule was first defined in a 1984 case, Bovson v. Sanperi, that helps the defendants recover emotional damages from being a witness to a serious injury or death. You must prove all four elements below to qualify under the zone of danger rule:
- There was a possibility that an accident could have left you and your loved one gravely or fatally injured.
- Your child, sibling, or spouse suffered an injury. New York state law doesn’t recognize any other familial relationships.
- You were aware of the death or serious injury of a loved one as they were in imminent danger because of another person’s actions.
- You were physically or emotionally injured due to witnessing the accident.
The Complexities of Filing for Emotional Distress
The point of documenting your emotional distress is not to minimize how you were emotionally harmed. You need a clear record of everything, from how much one traumatic event affected your life. This will be critical when establishing fault and demanding compensation because negligence may go unnoticed without this evidence, while intent can only be proven through documentation.
This makes documenting your trauma very important so you can guarantee that your testimony and others’ testimonies are consistent throughout the legal process. Linking negligence to your emotional distress is a necessary task in an extensive legal investigation.
Reach Out to an Experienced Negligence Lawyer
Discussing your situation with the negligence lawyers at Catalano Law can help you understand the merits of an emotional distress case and your legal options. We treat every client as a member of our family, so you can expect expert advice, compassion, and understanding. Contact our law firm today for a free and confidential consultation to learn if you are eligible for compensation for your emotional distress after a serious accident.