Emotional Distress Claim Allowed in NJ Car Accident Lawsuit

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who saw her mother die in a car crash can sue the other driver for negligently inflicting emotional distress.

In many states you cannot claim emotional distress as your only injury.  In some states you also have to prove in a car accident lawsuit that  you witnessed the accident or were within some “zone of danger” in order to claim emotional distress.  This decision appears to expand the types of damages that you can claim in a New Jersey Auto Accident case.

The 4-3 decision released Tuesday said such a claim can be made despite the state’s so-called “verbal threshold” for auto insurance, which generally allows victims to only sue for physical injuries.

The insurance industry criticized the ruling, charging it threatens efforts at reducing insurance rates.

The daughter was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after the car she and her mother were in was rear-ended in 2000. The daughter got more than $500,000 for wrongful death and survivorship claims, but a judge dismissed the emotional distress claim.

The Supreme Court decision reinstates that claim.

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