If someone’s careless actions cause you emotional distress, whether done directly or indirectly, you may be able to seek damages against that person through a cause of action called “negligent infliction of emotional distress.”

Because this is a lawsuit for negligence, one must prove 4 basic things:

  1. Duty
  2. Breach
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

There are two classes of victims who can recover from these types of suits:

Direct Victims

Direct victims are those directly injured by a defendant’s negligence. For example, a doctor tells his patient’s spouse that the patient has a disease when he/she does not. This misdiagnosis, however unintentional, nevertheless causes emotional distress to the patient as well as the spouse.

Different jurisdictions have different requirements as to what a direct victim must show. Some jurisdictions require that the harm to the direct victim must have been reasonably foreseeable. Others require some form of physical injury. Most jurisdictions focus on a pre-existing relationship, such as between a patient and doctor.


In this situation, a person witnesses the effect of the defendant’s negligence, usually causing injury to a third party. A classic example is a mother witnessing her young daughter being struck by a car. The mother may sue for damages if she:

  • Has a close relationship to the victim
  • Is present at the scene when the injury occurs, and is aware that the victim is being injured
  • Suffers severe emotional distress because of the injury. This distress must not be an abnormal reaction, but nevertheless, must go beyond that of an ordinary witness.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injustice or an injury, the experienced personal injury legal team at Roberts & Roberts is here to help with compassionate, aggressive representation. Please call 800-248-6000 or contact us for a free consultation.

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