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Compensation for Emotional Trauma as a Result of Seeing a Loved One Injured

Under Pennsylvania law, you have the right to recover compensation when you have suffered ‘emotional distress’ such as stress, anxiety, fear, depression, or nightmares as a result of witnessing a close family member or relative become injured by someone else’s negligence. The name for this cause of action is Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.

To recover under a claim of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, or “NIED,” a plaintiff must demonstrate, like any claim involving injury from negligence, that the emotional distress suffered was a foreseeable injury. Unfortunately, there is no bright line test when it comes to determining whether an injury was foreseeable.

Rather than a bright line rule, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has adopted three factors from California courts, and stated that these three factors must be balanced and weighed against public policy before determining whether a plaintiff has the right to recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The three factors to be balanced are:

(1) Whether the plaintiff was located near the scene of the accident as contrasted with one who was a distance away from it;

(2) Whether the shock resulted from a direct emotional impact upon the plaintiff from the sensory and contemporaneous observance of the accident, as contrasted with learning of the accident from others after its occurrence; and

(3) Whether the plaintiff and the victim were closely related, as contrasted with an absence of any relationship or the presence of only a distant relationship.

Sinn v. Burd, 486 Pa. 146, 170-71 (1979) (quoting Dillon v. Legg, 69 Cal.Rptr. 72, 80 (1968)).

While there is much discussion on these three factors, NIED claims often arise where a plaintiff was present when a family member was run over by a car, involved in a motor vehicle collision, or received negligent medical care.

To learn more about your legal rights and options as a victim of negligent infliction of emotional distress, please contact Atlee Hall, LLP today for a free consultation. We have offices in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but help victims across the state.