Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress – full Information 2021

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, or NIED, is not a separate tort claim in California. However, it is a claim that allows a plaintiff to recover damages for severe emotional distress on a negligence cause of action, even where the plaintiff was not injured. Additionally, the claim may, in some cases, allow for a third-party “bystander” to recover when he or she perceives the injury of another. 

Severe emotional distress exists where a court finds that an ordinary and reasonable person would not be able to deal with emotional distress that has resulted in each particular case. In these cases, courts will award recovery for purely emotional injuries. Common types of severe emotional distress include: 

  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Anxiety
  • Humiliation
  • Shock  

Who Can Recover for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress? 

Generally, people have a duty to act reasonably in a way that does not cause severe emotional distress to another. However, this duty does not apply to all people, but only to a specific category of qualified persons. 

There are two types of plaintiffs that can bring a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress: a direct victim and a bystander. 

Direct Victims Who Bring a Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim

To bring a successful NIED claim, the direct victim plaintiff must show

  1. The defendant was negligent in that he owed a duty to the plaintiff, he breached that duty, and that breach was the cause of actual harm to the plaintiff; 
  2. The plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress; and 
  3. That emotional distress resulted from the defendant’s negligence. 

Here, the court will first decide whether negligence exists. Upon a finding of negligence, it must be determined whether a reasonable person would be unable to cope with the mental distress caused by the negligent act. It should be noted that no physical injury is required to be successful on an NIED claim.

Third-Party Bystanders Who Bring a Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim

When a bystander attempts to bring a claim for NIED, he or she must show: 

  1. A close relationship with the injured party;
  2. He or she witnessed the injury; 
  3. He or she suffered emotional distress at a greater magnitude relative to that of someone who did not share a close relationship with the victim. 

California recognizes a “close relationship” between spouses and registered domestic partners, and parents, grandparents, children, and siblings. Unmarried cohabitants will not be allowed to recover damages, nor will other unqualified individuals absent exceptional circumstances. 

The element of witnessing the injury is more than seeing an accident, and knowing the victim was injured. It requires that the plaintiff be present at the scene of the accident at the time it occurs. Additionally, the plaintiff must have knowledge that the accident is causing injury at the time that it is occurring. Knowledge of an injury acquired any time after it has occurred is insufficient for an NIED claim. 

Have You Suffered from Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?

Whether you are the direct victim of or a bystander to a negligent accident that causes injury, you may be entitled to compensation for NIED. The experienced attorneys at Jahrmarkt & Associates understand the complexities of NIED cases and can help you to understand whether you’re able to recover damages. For your free consultation, call (310) 226-7676 or visit our website today.