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Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims (NIED): A Complete Guide

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims

There is much confusion and controversy surrounding personal injury cases where emotional distress is the key element. However, ‘negligent infliction of emotional distress’ (NIED) claims may be even more overlooked as it is challenging to identify NIED incidents.

After all, emotional distress is difficult to prove. It is unsurprising that tort laws have historically only considered physical distress as valid legal liability.

However, since 1968, when the California Supreme court first established the tort of negligent infliction of emotion distress, courts in the United States have allowed emotional distress damages to be the sole form of injury in personal injury claims. The decision came through the highly publicized case, Dillon v. Legg. This case involved a mother witnessing her child’s death in a car accident caused by a negligent driver.

For those looking to file NIED claims, it is essential to understand how NEID laws work. What counts as negligent infliction of emotional distress? Here is a complete guide:

What is a Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED) Claim?

As mentioned, NIED is a type of personal injury claim which involves the victim (plaintiff) experiencing immense mental or emotional anguish due to the careless actions of the defendant. The act that causes negligent infliction of emotional distress counts as a tortious act.

In tort laws, legal liability arises when a defendant commits intentional or negligent harm against the claimant. NIED claims are a subcategory of tort laws.

Usually, a NIED claim, like all tort law claims, seeks action against the defendant in the form of monetary damages. These laws are different from criminal laws, where the state seeks to convict a person who has committed a crime in order to punish that person.

How to Prove NIED?

How does one prove emotional distress? After all, emotional harm is not as clear cut as physical harm. Oftentimes, it is intangible and immeasurable. This makes NIED laws controversial and limited in some states.

As such, to prove NIED, the case must meet some common criteria in US state laws. Not all emotional distress counts under NIED case laws. For example, emotional pain caused by an argument between friends does not count as an NIED case.

Elements of NIED

As a separate cause of action, NIED damages are allowed under specific circumstances in Louisiana. This is the so-called bystander rule. This rule allows a plaintiff who witnesses a member of her family being harmed by another to bring a claim against a person or entity who has caused injury to that family member.

In order to bring a bystander claim for NIED in Louisiana as a result of seeing damage or harm to a family member,

  1. The plaintiff must view the accident or come upon the scene before substantial change has occurred.

  2. The direct victim must suffer such harm that it is reasonably expected that a person in the plaintiff’s position would suffer mental distress.

  3. The emotional distress must be severe and debilitating.

  4. There must be a causal link between the negligent act and the emotional distress.

Defining Emotional Damage

However, emotional damage is difficult to define. In most instances, emotional damage only counts if it manifests into physical symptoms. These symptoms can range from insomnia to eating disorders. They do not have severe symptoms, though.

Some states follow the ‘impact rule which requires the plaintiff to sustain an impact before she can recover damages for emotional distress caused by the negligence of another. Under the impact rule, the plaintiff must prove that the emotional distress came from the physical injuries that the plaintiff sustained from the impact. Other states incorporate ‘foreseeability’ in defining NIED law. If the defendant could have foreseen the impact of his/her actions, it counts as NIED.

What to Do With A NIED Claim?

If someone wants to file a NIED claim, they should contact a lawyer to assist them. All states have a specific criteria for what counts as NIED. In Louisiana, an experienced personal injury lawyer should be consulted if you think that you might have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Because NIED cases can be complicated, experienced personal lawyers who have handled these types of cases will be a valuable asset. They will work with injured plaintiffs to find ways to prove their emotional distress damages.


When you hire a personal injury lawyer, they make it worth your while. If you are suffering from a several emotional distress that was caused by you witnessing harm to a family member who was injured by the negligence of another person or company, you should consider hiring a lawyer to handle your claim. It is essential to ensure that your lawyer is trustworthy and reliable and you should only hire from reputable law firms who are experienced with personal injury cases.

Our Firm

At the Law Office of Gaynell Williams, L.L.C., we have the experience you need to fight for the compensation you deserve for not only the costs you’ve incurred, but for the pain and suffering you and your family may have suffered as a result of the negligence of someone else such as a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. We will search for every possible source of financial restitution, be it through insurance settlements, personal injury claims, arbitration, mediation, or litigation. Our goal is to work with you so that you receive compensation for the pain and suffering and financial costs you have been burdened with after a serious accident so that you can focus on what is most important – healing and getting on with the rest of your life.


Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law offers a free initial consultation to discuss your case. The first consultation can be in person or it can be virtual, on the Internet. Call Gaynell Williams today at (504) 302-2462 for a free consultation as soon as possible. We will work around your schedule. New Orleans lawyers Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law have offices in Gretna and Downtown New Orleans by appointment only.

This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any specific situation under Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you.

© 2021 Gaynell Williams

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