Emotional Distress Claim Allowed in New Jersey Crash Lawsuit

June 13, 2008

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who saw her mother die in a car crash can sue the other driver for negligently inflicting emotional distress.

The 4-3 decision released Tuesday said such a claim can be made despite the state’s so-called “verbal threshold” for auto insurance, which generally allows victims to only sue for physical injuries.

The insurance industry criticized the ruling, charging it threatens efforts at reducing insurance rates.

The daughter was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after the car she and her mother were in was rear-ended in 2000. The daughter got more than $500,000 for wrongful death and survivorship claims, but a judge dismissed the emotional distress claim.

The Supreme Court decision reinstates that claim.

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