Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in an Assault Case
What Is Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress is a specific type of emotional distress legal cause of action. It occurs when one person does something to cause severe emotional distress to another person. Negligent Infliction of Emotion Distress is similar to Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, except that it occurs unintentionally or by accident.
Laws governing these claims vary from state to state, and some jurisdictions may limit the amount of recovery for the injured person. Emotional distress claims are often intertwined with other personal injury claims such as assault or medical malpractice.
How Can I Prove Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?
First of all, the plaintiff need not prove that the defendant acted purposefully or willfully in creating the emotional distress. Instead, most jurisdictions require that the following elements be satisfied:
- The defendant engaged in conduct that was negligent or was a willful violation of statutory standards;
- The plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress;
- The defendant’s conduct was the direct cause of the emotional distress
In an assault claim, the defendant’s violation of statutory standards would be the assault that they engaged in. If the assault resulted in severe emotional distress to the plaintiff, and if the assault was the cause of the emotional distress, then the defendant will be found liable for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
What Is Considered Severe Emotional Distress?
“Severe emotional distress” is narrowly defined in the context a Negligent Inflection of Emotional Distress claim. Basically, the plaintiff must show that their emotional distress is accompanied by some sort of substantial, verifiable physical injury. In other words, the plaintiff cannot recover for distress that is solely psychological or imagined. Examples of physical injury or symptoms that would constitute severe emotional distress would be:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Nausea, vomiting, or intestinal discomfort
- Nervous system disorders
- Overall physical illness
Thus, the more that the emotional distress is accompanied by physical symptoms, the greater the chances of recover are for the plaintiff. If the emotional distress is not accompanied by any physical symptoms at all, then the plaintiff will likely have difficulties in proving their claim.
Can a Bystander Recover for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?
Sometimes a bystander may suffer emotional distress after witnessing a victim being assault. Recovery for bystanders is extremely limited in assault cases. In order to recover, the bystander must prove:
- The defendant acted negligently in committing the assault
- The defendant’s assault was the cause of injury to the victim
- The bystander was the victim’s parent, spouse, or child
- The bystander was present at the scene of the assault during its occurrence
- The bystander was aware that the assault caused an injury to the victim
- The bystander suffered serious emotional distress as a result of the above
In addition, the plaintiff bystander must have been in the “zone of danger” of the attack, meaning that they themselves must also have been exposed to the risk of injury from the assault. Their emotional distress must also be accompanied by physical symptoms. If any of these elements is lacking, then the bystander will not be permitted to recover. For example, if the person was not related to the victim, or if they merely heard about the assault but did not witness it, they cannot recover for emotional distress.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress are serious and should be addressed immediately. The advice and representation of an attorney can be of great help in such claims. An experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you on your course of action whether you are the person injured, a bystander, or are being accused of inflicting emotional distress.
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Last Modified: 04-11-2014 03:52 PM PDT
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