Can You Sue For Negligence Without Injury?

When you think of personal injury claims and lawsuits, the word “injury” is typically associated with broken bones, burns, or other types of physical trauma. But an injury claim based on negligence can be brought for psychological or emotional effects as well.  

Negligence, in the context of personal injury law, is defined as a failure to exercise the care toward others which a reasonable person would do under similar circumstances. In other words, taking care that your actions or inactions do not create potential harm to others around you.  

There is no element of wrongful intent here, but a careless or reckless behavior that causes damage or losses to another person. 

You can sue for negligence without suffering physical injury, but these types of claims can only be brought in limited circumstances. The first step to understanding your rights is to contact a personal injury attorney at Ellis Law. Our legal team leverages nearly 30 years of case-winning experience and provides free consultations to potential clients throughout Southern California. 

Four elements of negligence 

The success of a negligence claim filed in California rests on the plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate four key elements: that a duty of care existed, that the duty of care was breached, and the breach caused their emotional or mental injury. 

For example, you are involved in a horrific motor vehicle accident. You somehow escape physical harm but are left with extreme psychological effects. In order to be successful, you will need to establish that your anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, or depressive disorder happened where a duty of care existed, that the defendant ignored a foreseeable risk and that this caused your emotional and psychological suffering.  

Negligent infliction of emotional distress 

In many states, it is nearly impossible to sue for negligence unless a physical injury occurred. California recognizes that emotional injuries can be just as debilitating, impacting one’s ability to enjoy life or even earn a living. 

Toward that end, the state allows plaintiffs to sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress. This type of tort claim is only seeking damages for mental and emotional anguish such as nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, shock, humiliation, and shame. 

The majority of negligent infliction of emotional distress claims are “bystander” cases. The plaintiff must prove that they were profoundly affected by watching someone who they know get injured or killed. 

Some common examples of these claims: 

  • You see a loved one or family member killed in a car crash 
  • You watch your husband’s safety equipment fail, causing him to fall to his death 
  • A medical professional misdiagnoses your spouse 

Being sad, anxious, or shaken for a couple of weeks does not qualify for compensation. Your emotional distress must be so profound that it impacts every facet of your life, causing disruptions that a reasonable person could not cope with.  

Under California civil code, victims must prove all of the following: 

  • That the defendant was negligent 
  • That the plaintiff suffered serious emotional distress 
  • That the defendant’s negligence was a significant factor in causing their emotional distress 

Proving negligent infliction of emotional distress is a labor-intensive undertaking best suited to a skilled personal injury lawyer

Maximum compensation for your emotional injuries 

If you are considering pursuing a negligence claim for emotional distress without physical injury, Ellis Law stands ready to help.  Our dedicated attorneys understand how deeply impactful emotional trauma can be and will do everything in our power to help clients maximize their recovery and move forward with their lives. 

Help protect your rights by hiring a law firm that consistently achieves outstanding verdicts and settlements for clients. Our track record speaks for itself, and we are proud to offer our top-tier services on a contingency-fee arrangement, meaning there are no upfront fees and you only pay once we recover money in your case. 

Contact us today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation in our Los Angeles office.