personal injury and emotional distress

Suing for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in New Jersey

Suffering emotional distress can significantly affect your day-to-day life. You may be wondering if you have a claim for the pain you have experienced. Unfortunately, emotional distress is one of the hardest things to prove and assign value to. Our experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney can help evaluate and quantify your claim.

What Is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is mental suffering as an emotional response to an experience. Examples include fright, nervousness, and anxiety. It can be triggered by a memory of one or more events. Emotional distress is different from depression, inability to perform tasks, or illness, which may instead be symptoms of distress.

There are two different legal claims related to emotional distress. One is the negligent infliction of emotional distress, and the second is the intentional infliction of emotional distress. This blog focuses on the negligent infliction of emotional distress.

How Do You Prove Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?

In a lawsuit claiming negligent infliction of emotional distress, the party asserting the injury is the Plaintiff, and the person accused of the misconduct is the Defendant. To successfully prove this claim, you need to establish four elements:

  • First, that the Defendant owed you or a foreseeable victim a duty not to put you (or the victim) at foreseeable risk of emotional harm
  • Second, that Defendant breached their duty to you by creating a threat of physical harm or that they acted in a way that caused severe emotional distress
  • Third, the Plaintiff must have suffered damages and severe emotional distress as a result of the alleged actions
  • Fourth, the Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant’s actions were the direct cause of the alleged emotional distress 

It is important to note that in New Jersey, the Plaintiff does not have to be the person who was in danger of physical harm. Bystanders of distressing events where someone else is injured can also make claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress. Under these circumstances, they must prove four things:

  • Defendant’s negligence caused the death or serious physical injury the claimant witnessed
  • The claimant had a marital or intimate family relationship with the injured person
  • The claimant observed the death or serious bodily injury of their loved one
  • This observation resulted in severe emotional distress

A claimant must not necessarily be a blood relative or legally married. A couple living together or engaged to be married can meet these requirements. Some New Jersey courts also require the Plaintiff to have been close enough to the accident where they could have arguably been at risk of physical impact and feared for their safety.

How Long Do I Have to File My Claim?

Most claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress must be filed within two years in New Jersey. There are exceptions to this rule where a minor who sustained medical malpractice injuries at birth is involved. Otherwise, the statute of limitations starts to run when you discover an injury or should have discovered the injury. If you do not file a lawsuit within this time frame, you may lose your ability to do so. For this reason, you should not delay speaking with an attorney about your situation.

Successfully pursuing a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress can be a complex and challenging process. Working with an experienced attorney is crucial. If you have experienced emotional distress, please contact our office today for a free consultation.