Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 18, 2020

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In a controversial decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a New Jersey woman who saw her mother die in a car accident may be able to recover emotional distress damages after she developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD). That decision isn’t sitting well with insurers.

The case

A car in which two New Jersey women, a mother and daughter, were riding as driver and passenger was rear ended in 2000, causing fatal injuries to the mother. The tragic experience of her mother dying before her eyes caused the daughter to develop PTSD and depression. She sued the driver of the vehicle who caused her mother’s death and received $500,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the judge would not allow her claim for PTSD. The case made it all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court who decided, 4 to 3, that the daughter could, in fact, continue her claim for PTSD damages.

Insurers say ruling is bad for consumers, but most consumers don’t buy it

The insurance industry has voiced disapproval over the decision as it says that claims for emotional distress could undermine its efforts at reducing insurance rates in the state. However, consumers don’t seem to be buying it as their comments showed on New Jersey’s Asbury Park Press’s blog section. Here’s what some of them had to say:

  • My parents were in a MVA many years ago and the accident still haunts my mother. I can understand how emotional distress can be considered an injury that should be compensated for. Just imagine having to re-live a traumatic event (such as watching your mother die) over and over again in your head. . . . The only way to be compensated for such a thing is with money.
  • Even if all car thefts, insurance fraud and car accidents ceased to happen, nobody’s insurance would go down!
  • The thieves at the insurance companies are worried about the decision affecting lower rates? Who is kidding who? . . . Their motto:’Pay your premiums and just try and collect!’

As this case shows, the type of damages available to victims is never set in stone. So, if you’ve been injured in a car accident in New Jersey or elsewhere, contact an attorney whose practice focuses in this area of the law.