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Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Personal Injury Lawyer

The tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”), such as in a personal injury case, is a cause of action a plaintiff can bring after an act by the defendant that causes the plaintiff some type of severe emotional harm.  There are two types of NIED claims – bystander and direct. For a long time, Nevada only specifically recognized a bystander NIED claim, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that Nevada finally recognized a cause of action for direct NIED claims. 

A plaintiff may recover under a direct NIED theory by claiming the severe emotional distress as an element of the damage they sustained as a result of the defendant’s negligent act.  The direct NIED damages claim must derive from an incident where a defendant’s negligence caused the claimant’s injury, and the plaintiff suffers severe emotional distress as a result.  

As a personal injury lawyer will say, notably, the emotional distress cannot just be insomnia or other generalized discomfort.  A plaintiff alleging such a claim must demonstrate a physical impact beyond conditions such as insomnia or general discomfort.  For example, a plaintiff suffering from recurring panic attacks or nightmares involving the incident would have a sufficient physical impact for the purposes of the direct NIED claim.   

The second type of NIED claim pertains to a bystander who is not a direct physically injured victim of the defendant’s negligence.  To prove a bystander NIED claim, a plaintiff must be closely related to the victim of the accident, be located near the scene of the accident, and suffer a direct emotional impact stemming from the sensory and contemporaneous observance of the accident.  To be considered closely related to the direct victim, the relationship between the bystander and the direct victim is determined based upon family membership, either by blood or marriage.  This means that a potential plaintiff who witnesses her fiancé in a car wreck and suffers emotional damage therefrom would likely not be sufficiently closely related for purposes of a bystander NIED claim because they have not yet married. 

Notably, foreseeability of harm has been the cornerstone of Nevada’s test for a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress.  To determine the foreseeability, the overall circumstances surrounding the incident must be examined to determine when the harm was reasonably foreseeable.  For example, if a plaintiff witnesses a spouse suffer from being prescribed the wrong medication for their illness and that spouse suffers emotional distress therefrom, that harm is likely foreseeable because prescribing anyone a wrong medication would lead to adverse health effects and witnessing a spouse suffer from that incorrect prescription and resulting illnesses is reasonably foreseeable to cause emotional damage to the healthy spouse.  Thanks to Eglet Adams for their Insight on civil tort claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress in Nevada. If you have any further questions about laws surrounding emotional distress, do not hesitate to contact an experienced lawyer to help guide you through what can be a stressful and overwhelming process. You shouldn’t have to handle these steps  alone.