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Suing For Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in New York

Posted in Negligence on June 28, 2022

Suing For Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in New York

NOTE: Our law firm does not handle Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress cases. This article is for informational purposes only. Information found in the article does not constitute as formal legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.

Accidents rarely cause only physical injuries. Many accident victims and their families suffer for years–or even the rest of their lives–with the consequences of emotional trauma.

Witnessing a family member suffer a tragic accident can cause you severe emotional distress, even if you’re unharmed. New York law recognizes the right of plaintiffs to sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). An NIED claim could result from a DUI car accident, a medical malpractice claim, a negligent security claim, or any number of accident circumstances.

What Is Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in New York?

If someone’s severely reckless conduct caused you to fear for your physical safety and consequently caused you severe emotional trauma, you could potentially have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED).

These claims are constantly evolving, and they’re fairly controversial, so it’s important to consult an experienced NYC personal injury attorney if you think you may have a valid NIED claim.

A plaintiff may bring a claim of NIED when:

  • The defendant breached a duty to the plaintiff that unreasonably endangered the plaintiff’s physical safety or caused the plaintiff to fear for their physical safety;
  • The defendant exhibited extreme and outrageous conduct;
  • The defendant’s conduct caused the plaintiff severe emotional distress

Claims for NIED are based on the defendant’s negligent, not intentional, behavior. Physical injuries often occur in conjunction with NIED, but not always. For example, suppose two patients each had a biopsy to test for cancer. One is positive; one is negative. The lab mixes up the test results.

The results are eventually straightened out, but both patients may have suffered severe emotional distress in the meantime. The person with cancer might also have missed out on valuable time needed to begin treatment. The cancer-free patient may have suffered extreme stress thinking they had cancer when they didn’t, but they experienced no actual physical harm. Both patients could have a claim for NIED.

What Are the Symptoms of Severe Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress can take many forms. Accidents affect people in different ways, and symptoms may not show up right away.

Some symptoms of emotional distress include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Hallucinations
  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Flashbacks
  • Headaches
  • Amaxophobia (fear of driving)
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use

Survivor’s guilt is a term given to symptoms that affect people who have survived traumatic events or illnesses when others have not.

Who Can Sue for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in New York?

New York law regarding claims for NIED has evolved significantly over time. In the late 1800s, plaintiffs could not recover if they had not also suffered an immediate physical injury. Fast forward to today, and immediate family members in the “zone of danger” of a traumatic event may also sue for NIED.

Someone is in the bystander zone of danger if they:

  • Witnessed an immediate family member get injured or killed due to the defendant’s negligent conduct; and
  • Were threatened with physical injury as a result of the same conduct; and
  • Suffered emotional distress as a result.

In a recent court decision, the New York Court of Appeals added grandparents to this list of “immediate family members,” but it noted that it has not yet defined an outer limit to the category. The Court’s decision seemed to suggest that strict limitation of the bystander rule to immediate family may continue to evolve with the nature of family relationships. For now, New York law allows parents, spouses, children, siblings, and grandparents to sue for NIED.

What Compensation Can I Recover for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?

While each case is unique, you can generally seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages related to your emotional distress.

This may include compensation for:

  • Psychological counseling
  • Lost wages
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment of life activities
  • Embarrassment or loss of reputation

If you were also physically injured, these claims could be combined with your personal injury lawsuit. Your attorney will determine the best strategy to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in NY?

You’ll have to file a lawsuit within three years of the incident that caused your emotional distress. That’s also the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, so the deadline is typically the same as for the underlying accident.

However, wrongful death cases in New York must be filed within two years. So if you lost a family member in a fatal accident and plan to file an NIED claim and a wrongful death claim, don’t miss the two-year deadline.

The law is constantly changing, and these claims are not terribly common. To set yourself up for success, find a reputable NYC personal injury attorney to handle your negligent infliction of emotional distress claim.

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