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Can I sue for distress suffered from witnessing a car crash?

In our last entry, we talked about the horrors that a Texas family has suffered as a result of a deadly 2012 accident. Five people were killed in that single-vehicle accident, all apparently from the same family.

The main thrust of the personal injury suit that has been filed as a result of this tragic event is the claim that a defective tire on the vehicle was the key cause of the fatal accident. The plaintiffs say the tread separated from the body of the tire, resulting in the driver losing control of the vehicle.

But in addition to seeking compensation for wrongful death, the driver and the six other survivors from the crash are seeking recovery for the emotional distress they suffered from having witnessed the deaths of their loved ones. Many may wonder what the legal foundation for such a claim might be.

The rules vary from state to state. Still, there is general recognition under the law that when an accident occurs, not all injury suffered is physical. And there is further recognition that emotional injury may not always be evident immediately after the traumatic experience.

As information from FindLaw explains, some jurisdictions allow for a wide range of emotional distress claims while others draw some lines. Was the infliction of distress the result of negligence or was it intentional? Determining where that line happens to be is something that can be difficult for anyone without experience and knowledge of the law, which is why consulting an attorney is always recommended.

In general terms, however, what may be expected to prove a claim of emotional distress in some states is evidence that the event has resulted in physical symptoms. But in other states, it may be enough to show that the trauma was the result of some outrageous or negligent conduct by the defendant.

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