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Can You Sue for Emotional Distress in New York?

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If you’ve been in an accident, you might not only have suffered from physical wounds, but emotional ones as well. Although emotional trauma isn’t visible, mental anguish can often outlast the pain of bodily injuries — and can be just as severe as the physical harm you may have suffered in connection with your accident. Importantly, New York law allows you to recover both your economic and non-economic damages, including those incurred as a result of emotional distress.

Claiming Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Action

When someone else’s negligent, reckless, or careless conduct causes you to suffer injury, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim. Often, emotional distress is claimed as a part of a plaintiff’s pain and suffering damages. New York courts recognize two distinct claims for emotional distress: intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) and negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). Each claim has specific elements that you must prove to recover damages.

To establish a claim for IIED, you must be able to show that someone else intentionally or recklessly caused you to suffer severe emotional distress due to their extreme or outrageous conduct. The behavior must be more than rude or offensive — it must rise to a level that is so egregious that it is beyond the bounds of decency. Critically, it is not necessary to have sustained bodily harm to recover damages for IIED.    

To prevail in a claim for NIED, you are required prove that the defendant’s negligent conduct caused you mental anguish. There must usually be physical injuries that accompany the mental harm in order to recover damages in this type of claim. Emotional distress is typically considered to be “negligently” inflicted in car crashes caused by texting and driving, disregarding a red light, failure to obey traffic signals, and other similar cases.   

The Zone of Danger Rule

If your immediate family member died or suffered a serious injury in an accident, you may be entitled to recover damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress if you witnessed the occurrence. Significantly, you must have been within the “zone of danger.” In order to establish a claim under the zone of danger rule, you must prove the following:

  1. There was a possibility you could have been seriously or fatally injured in the accident along with your loved one.
  2. You were contemporaneously aware of the serious injury or death of your loved one.
  3. The injured was sustained by your parent, child, or sibling.
  4. You sustained a physical or emotional injury due to witnessing the accident.

Family members who file a claim under the zone of danger rule may also be eligible to recover their economic damages in a wrongful death action.

What Evidence Do You Need to Prove Emotional Distress?

Generally, the strongest claims for emotional distress involve physical harm or severe psychological effects. As a result, you may have required extensive medical treatment and lost time from work. It’s crucial to ensure that you seek the medical help you need — not only to get better but to build a solid claim.  

It’s a good idea to keep a journal of your symptoms and record how they affect various aspects of your daily life. A jury may consider how your symptoms may have interfered with your education, family life, and your ability to work. They will also evaluate the intensity and duration of your symptoms. Your mental health records, witness testimony, and a mental health professional’s opinion are all essential pieces of evidence that can help to establish your claim.  

Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney

If you’ve suffered from emotional distress due to an accident that was caused by the negligence, recklessness, or carelessness of another, you may be entitled to monetary recovery for your injuries. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation you deserve. With over three decades of experience, The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. provides dedicated counsel and skilled advocacy for a wide variety of personal injury actions.

The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has convenient office locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, as well as mobile locations serving Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester, Rockland County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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