Emotional Distress Claims from Motor Vehicle Accidents

Can you make a claim against an at-fault driver for emotional distress related to a motor vehicle accident?

As with most things in the law, the answer isn’t as simple as you would like.

The short answer is “yes.” But there is more to it. In North Carolina, this is what’s known as a Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress claim. It is a valid cause of action in NC, so you can bring such a claim. However, the law is clear that you have to have a diagnosis from a health care professional in order to meet your burden of proof.

What does all of that mean?

Let’s say you’re scared to drive for a month after the accident. That sucks and would certainly disrupt your life. But let’s say you don’t seek any psychological health care as a result, and you don’t have a diagnosis (anxiety, PTSD, etc.) from a qualified health care professional. In that situation, you can’t meet your burden of proof, you can’t therefore prove your case, so you can’t recover anything from the at-fault party for that aspect of your claim.

Assuming similar facts but let’s say you DO go to a licensed counselor of some sort and you DO get a diagnosis of an emotional injury, then you CAN potentially meet your burden of proof, so the claim might pass muster.

But then again, there’s the work of proving what that claim is worth!

Don’t try to do this alone. As always, your health (mental and physical) are of primary importance, so seek the care you need first. THEN talk to an attorney about your situation. This is why professionals do what they do, so seek them out! Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Jeffrey Allen Howard, Attorney at Law, PLLC
1829 E. Franklin St. - Bldg 600
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

(P) 919-929-2992
(F) 919-636-4779

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