Do I Have an Emotional Trauma Claim for Witnessing a Wrongful Death?

There are cases where a person is unlucky enough to have witnessed a wrongful death of either a loved one or a stranger. As a result, the person may suffer emotional trauma. The courts have begun to understand that this event is traumatic for the person who witnesses it, and it is called the tort of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress or NIED.

emotional trauma

What is an Atlanta Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death refers to death resulting from the negligent actions of another person. Death can be caused by negligence or by an intentional act that results in the death of a person. These actions can be traumatic to anyone who witnesses them, and they may suffer emotional trauma, especially when it is a family member who sees the event take place. In many cases, people who witness a wrongful death of a family member can bring an action in law against the person who caused the harm to their loved one, which resulted in the loved one’s death.

Are You Impacted and Traumatized from the Loss Event?

The word “impacted” is a good choice in the question above because there are several elements to the tort of NIED. First, there needs to be the requirement that the person eligible for NEID has to be in the “zone of danger” where the traumatic event occurred. Second, the individual suffering from NIED needs to have been impacted or affected by physical contact from the traumatic event. Third, there must have been some element of it being foreseen that the negligent conduct of one person would cause the second person emotional harm.

To recap the elements of NIED:

  1. You were in the zone of danger witnessing the loss.
  2. You were impacted or have physical contact with the traumatic event.
  3. There was negligent conduct of someone towards you to cause emotional harm.

What is the Zone of Danger?

The courts recognize a zone of danger when a person views a wrongful death and is within the area that the event occurred, close enough to even possibly where the witness fears for their own safety.

Let’s review a few examples here:

  • If there was a robbery, and during a high-speed chase with law enforcement, a car with innocent bystanders was pushed off the road into a body of water or river, the persons viewing the event may suffer NIED.
  • The people likely to have a solid claim for NIED were most likely at the scene, in a car nearby and also experienced the danger of being forced off of the road and having a car crash, being hit by one of the cars, or even also having the event of too falling into the water.
  • The people least likely to have a claim for NIED are those who were standing nearby the accident scene or who saw the story on television later that night after the event was over.

What is the Physical Impact in These Cases?

Physical impact means that the person who witnesses the wrongful death needs to be in an area where that person was highly likely to have been physically impacted and was physically impacted by the event. In Georgia, under the laws of this state, there is only recovery for emotional distress if there is proof of an impact that causes a physical injury to the person claiming NIED. So in those cases, there has to be physical impact that caused physical injury, and that physical injury caused emotional distress or mental suffering of the witness or person claiming NIED.

Public Policy Reasons for Requiring Physical Impact

Anyone interested in making a claim for NIED must understand that there has to be a physical impact or physical injury to the individual making the claim for NIED. The reasons for this requirement are that if there was no physical impact, then literally anyone could claim to be affected, or having lost sleep over, or even “traumatized” by events that led up to the witnessing of a wrongful death. In the past, the Georgia Supreme Court was adamant that there be proof of these requirements to stop the possibility of hundreds to thousands of claims for lawsuits of emotional distress for witnessing a wrongful death. The court has limited resources and does not have the time to manage or entertain claims with little merit. Additionally, the Georgia courts also note that NIED does not apply to every negligence claim. It will only come into play with a situation that includes the negligent aspect of inflicting emotional distress experienced by another person who sees a wrongful death.

Why Can’t I Get Money for My Emotional Distress?

These cases can be quite complex to review, as there are several hard and fast requirements as listed above before someone can legitimately recover money for a claim for NIED. It makes sense that when a person is affected by an event, they should recover compensation if it affects the person and puts them in a state of emotional distress. Many people who are traumatized should be able to recover compensation for their losses, but it is difficult to sort out without a knowledgeable attorney on your side.

Here at the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm, we are here for you and able to talk to you confidentially regarding your claims for NIED. If you have been in the zone of danger and seen a traumatic event, we are here for you to discuss what your next steps should be to begin a claim for damages. We have experienced injury and accident attorneys on our team who are ready to manage and handle your case from start to finish. Call today at (833) 254-2923 to get a free consultation and start the process of recovering the money you deserve in these types of cases.

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