Of course if you sustain a serious physical injury due to the negligence of another, and there is accompanying emotional distress, recovery for that distress is not normally in question.
What if there is no direct physical impact, just fright, fear, nervousness or the like that result from someone's negligent conduct?
"[I]n earlier times, courts did not recognize a specific duty to refrain from the negligent infliction of emotional distress and that, as a result, recovery of damages solely for mental distress was not permitted. Instead, damages for mental distress had a parasitic status; recovery was dependent upon an immediate physical injury accompanying an independently actionable tort." [internal quotations omitted] Hoffman v. Stamper, 385 Md. 1, 867 A.2d 276 (Md., 2005). Over time, courts changed the older rule, adopting instead the "modern rule," which permitted recovery for negligent infliction of mental distress if a physical injury resulted from the commission of the tort, regardless of [an] impact" which caused immediate physical injury. Id. A physical injury for which recovery is allowed does not have to be of the type typically or traditionally associated with car accidents, e.g. whiplash, contusion, abrasions, lacerations, and the like. Some "physical injuries" resulting from negligently inflicted emotional or mental distress that have been recognized by the courts include:
- emotional upset
- loss of appetite
- loss of weight
- extreme irritation, and
- "nervous prostration"1
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 3/14/19.
1Vance v. Vance, 408 A.2d. 728.