When people talk of personal injury, they mostly mean physical injuries. However, you can also seek personal injury damages for emotional distress caused by another party's negligent acts. For example, you may seek for damages if another person's negligent acts force you to view your loved one's death. For you to recover such damages, however, your emotional distress must satisfy your state's special rules for dealing with such situations. Here are two examples of such rules:
The Zone-of-Danger Rule
In states that use this rule, you will only be compensated for emotional distress if the defendant's negligent acts led to you being:
- At risk of immediate physical injury
- Frightened by the risk of injury or injury to your loved ones
In essence, the zone-of-danger rule asserts that even you were not hurt you could have been hurt by the defendant's negligent acts. It also means that you were frightened either by the risk of getting injured or your loved one's injury. This means that you may not be compensated for the emotional distress if you were not within the danger zone at the time of the accident.
For example, if another motorist hits your car, and your wife (a passenger in your car) is injured, then you may recover emotional damages. However, the zone-of-danger rule may preclude you from recovering emotional damages if your wife is hurt while driving and you were standing by the side of the road.
The Impact Rule
Whereas the zone-of-danger rule is observed in many states, only a few states use the impact rule. Just like the name suggests, the impact rules requires you to have been impacted (physically) during the occurrence of the accident. It doesn't matter what contacted or impacted you as long as the impact occurred due to the defendant's negligent actions.
For example, if a car collision occurs while you are standing by the side of the road, and a flying pebble hits you on the face, then you may recover emotional distress damages. However, this rule precludes you from any recovery if nothing from the accident impacted you physically; it doesn't matter how close to the collision you were.
These are just two examples, but there may be other special rules instituted by your state to govern emotional injury recovery. Therefore, before you submit a claim for emotional distress, you should consult a personal injury lawyer like one from a company like Prediletto, Halpin, Scharnikow & Nelson, P.S. to determine if your state's laws allow it.