California Law Permits Witnesses to Accidents to Recover Damages for the Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

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California Law Permits Witnesses to Accidents to Recover Damages for the Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

California Law Permits Witnesses to Accidents to Recover Damages for the Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Personal injury lawsuits are intended to compensate victims of accidents for the damages caused by their injuries. This includes pain and suffering, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. What many people do not realize is that a person who witnesses the death, or serious accident of a loved one might be eligible for compensation as well, even if they were not physically injured.

There Are Two Types of People Who Can Claim Damages for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED)

According to California law, there are two categories of people who can claim damages for NIED: those who were directly injured by a person’s wrongful act and a bystander who witnessed a serious or deadly injury to a close relative. While it is much less common for the former to receive damages for this type of emotional injury, witnesses do sometimes file suit.

There Are Many Types of Damages That Could Be Included in a Case Involving NIED

Depending on the specifics of the accident and the resulting physical or emotional injury, a person suing for NIED could receive compensation for medical costs, psychological counseling, lost wages caused by the event itself or the resulting doctor and psychological appointments, and pain and suffering.

What “Emotional Distress” Means Under California Law

There can be many elements that make up emotional distress for a person in California. Some examples include suffering, horror, anguish, fright, shame, nervousness, humiliation, shock, grief, anxiety, and worry. The law considers it “serious emotional distress” if a reasonable person would not be able to cope with the stress caused by the circumstances.

The Following Elements Must Be Proven in a Claim of Bystander Emotional Distress

In order to prove that there was a negative infliction of emotional distress as a bystander in California, the plaintiff just shows that they were closely related to the victim, that the person they are suing acted negligently and that their negligence caused injury or death to the victim, that the plaintiff was at the scene of the injury when it occurred, and that the plaintiff suffered serious emotional distress beyond what a disinterested witness would have or did experience.

Only Close Relatives Are Eligible

In order to successfully bring this type of case, the plaintiff must be a “close relative” to the injured party. According to California law, that means a spouse, registered domestic partner, or relative who lives in the same house as the victim, or the parent, sibling, child, or grandparent of the victim. Note that romantic partners who live in the same home are not eligible.

Do you believe you have a claim? If so, contact Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas now at 909-982-0707 to request a free legal consultation.


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