When people get injured, they often will consider whether they want to file a lawsuit or not to get compensation for their injuries. However, this can also happen when someone a person cares about gets injured. If someone close to you got injured around Queens, you may experience intense distress or “mental anguish” associated with seeking a loved one or someone else close to you get hurt.
The law does allow plaintiffs to recover damages for this sort of injury, but only under certain circumstances. The victim who actually does get hurt needs to be a family member in order for you to file a lawsuit for emotional distress in New York. If a family member got injured and you are experiencing distress, a Queens personal injury lawyer can help address the unique needs of your situation.
What is Emotional Distress?
When you sue because of the mental anguish you sue for either “intentional infliction of emotional distress” or “negligent infliction of emotional distress.” The difference between the two is whether the defendant intended to cause you distress or whether it happened because of negligence or carelessness.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is when someone attempts to cause distress on purpose. For example, if someone told you that a family member was injured in a car accident and then went on to describe in detail all of the horrible things that happened to try and upset you, they could be held liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
On the other hand, negligent infliction of emotional distress (NEID) is when someone causes distress through carelessness. A classic example of NEID is if a doctor diagnoses you with a terminal illness when you are, in fact, perfectly healthy or when you witness a loved one die in an accident.
Suing for Emotional Distress When You Witness a Loved One’s Accident
New York law only permits lawsuits for emotional distress under certain circumstances. Only immediate family members in the so-called “zone of danger” are able to file a lawsuit claiming emotional distress as an injury.
Immediate Family Members
The main requirement to be able to sue for either kind of emotional distress in New York is that you are an immediate family member of the person who got injured. This is limited to spouses, children, and siblings. If one of those categories is not your relation to the injured person, you cannot sue for emotional distress.
“Zone of Danger”
Another requirement to be able to sue for emotional distress in New York is that you are present in the “zone of danger.” Essentially, you need to be close enough to the accident that injured the other person that there was a good chance you could have gotten injured yourself. For example, if you and a family member were in the same vehicle that got hit by a car, and by chance, they got injured, and you did not, you would be considered to be in the zone of danger for the purposes of a lawsuit alleging emotional distress. There is also a good chance you would be considered to be in the zone of danger if, for example, you saw a vehicle the family member was in get hit from across the street.
Symptoms of Emotional Distress
Emotional distress will be different for each person. However, there are some symptoms that are somewhat common among people who were involved in a traumatic event or witnessed a loved one go through one.
Survivor’s guilt is a term for distressing feelings after surviving a harrowing experience that others did not. Survivor’s guilt can also happen if other people were injured in a traumatic event and you were unscathed. For example, someone may have survivor’s guilt if their house burns down and their family members had to spend time in the intensive care unit, but they themselves were unscathed.
Flashbacks are another common sign of emotional distress. For example, you could have flashbacks of a car accident where a family member was hurt, but you were not.
Difficulty Sleeping or Eating
After a traumatic experience, people sometimes experience changes in their daily routine. Light sleepers may have difficulty getting up, while some people may not be able to go to sleep due to anxiety. Similarly, some people may begin eating more than they used to or eating much less as a coping mechanism. Drastic changes in daily habits are a sign of emotional distress after an accident.
Other Reasons You Can Sue When Not Injured in Queens
Apart from the emotional distress of seeing someone you care about get hurt, there are a handful of other reasons that you can sue in Queens without getting injured yourself. If an accident results in property damage but no physical injury to your person, you can file a lawsuit to recover based on your destroyed property. For example, if you are in a car accident and are unharmed, but your car is totaled, you can sue the driver who hit you for totaling your car.