According to the Chicago Tribune, the murder rate in Chicago this year has climbed 50% higher than what it was last year. Chicago’s murder rate has already surpassed New York City’s, which has double the population. The murder rate climbed even higher this past Memorial Day weekend. Ten people died and around forty were wounded from gang-related shootings during a particularly bloody long weekend. Tragically, among the victims was a 7 year old girl playing in front of her house and a 13 year old boy who was eating at a pizzeria with his sister.
The victims from tragic events such as these can suffer more than just physical injuries. Sometimes, dangerous situations such as violent shootings or horrific accidents can cause severe emotional distress to both the direct victims and bystanders. In some cases, Illinois courts will find that the person who created the dangerous situation is liable for the negligent infliction of emotional distress on the victims. In evaluating a plaintiff’s claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, Illinois courts will first determine whether the plaintiff was a “direct victim” or a “bystander.” In some cases, the plaintiff can be both.
Direct victims can make a successful claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress if they satisfy the “impact” rule. That is, the emotional distress directly resulted from a physical injury caused by the dangerous situation. The plaintiff must also show that the defendant owed a duty to use reasonable care, the defendant failed to perform the duty, and that this breach of duty caused injury to the plaintiff, subsequently causing emotional distress. Direct victims do not have to show that there were any physical manifestations from their emotional distress – the emotional injuries alone are enough for a successful claim.
Bystanders, on the other hand, can make a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress if they satisfy the “zone-of-danger” test. That is, at the time of the occurrence, the plaintiff was close to the physical danger and reasonably feared for his/her own safety. This fear then caused severe emotional distress that resulted in some physical manifestation.
Negligent infliction of emotional distress is a particularly foggy area of law and can be difficult to understand. Experienced counsel is crucial for a successful claim.Google+