Can I sue for traumatic experience if there was no physical damage injury?

UPDATED: Aug 24, 2011

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Can I sue for traumatic experience if there was no physical damage injury?

Back-ended by semi twice in traffic crawl. Driver didn’t know we were in front of him. We were afraid we would be crushed against semi in front. 3 senior citizens in car shaken badly but no injuries. Back bumper messed up.

Asked on August 24, 2011 Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you probably cannot. The law does not, as a general rule, compensate people for being scared, upset, traumatized, etc. by close calls. The main situation where someone can get monetary damages for purely emotional or mental injury is the tort of "intentional infliction of emotional harm"--which as the very name of the tort indicates, requires an intentional or deliberate bad act, not merely negligence, such as is typically the case in a car accident. You can certainly contact a lawyer to discuss the case and see if he or she believes that you can recover, but bear in mind that it is usually not the case that you can recover for a "traumatic experience" when there is no physical injury and no intentional bad act.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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