Pain Suffering Emotional Distress Injury Law
The neighbor’s dog bit my son’s arm when he was trying to pet her. When my son came home with a very bloody wound, I passed out from the sight of all the blood. My son is fine now, but I have nightmares about the dog. Can I sue for my pain and suffering?
Although your response to the sight of the blood on your son’s arm is very real and obviously causing you some distress, unfortunately, you would not have a legal claim for your pain and suffering. Under the law, which was established by a California case called Dillon vs. Legg, you must have had “sensory and contemporaneous observance of the accident as contrasted with learning of the accident . . . after its occurrence,” in order to make a claim for your own pain and suffering – referred to as negligent infliction of emotional distress. For “bystander” NIED, you must have a close familial relationship to the injured person, you must feel serious emotional distress not abnormal in light of such a relationship, and you must have been there to see the accident, or in some states, to at least have heard (and/or felt it: ex. gas explosion) when it occurred. You must also make sure that the state in which you wish to bring the claim recognizes NIED. Here, you were not a witness to the dog biting your child-assuming you did not hear your child scream while he was being bitten. You found out about the injury-causing accident after the fact. Seeing the resulting wound does not constitute observance of the accident. Had you been there to observe the accident, you would then have to prove that you suffered emotional distress beyond what would be expected in a disinterested witness, that is, someone who has no close familial relationship to your son. Furthermore, your passing out would have to result out of the shock of your love one being injured, not because blood makes you faint. Your best course of action here would be to contact an attorney regarding your son’s injury and any pain and suffering he experienced following the incident.
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