Articles Tagged with emotional distress

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An accident often leaves more than physical injuries. The victims also suffer emotional trauma that may persist for weeks, months, and even years after the accident itself. For this reason, Georgia law does recognize a variety of claims for emotional damages arising from an accident caused by a third party’s negligence.

Malibu Boats, LLC v. Batchelder

Just how far can such claims go? That is a question the Georgia Court of Appeals recently confronted in Malibu Boats, LLC v. Batchelder, a personal injury case arising from a 2014 boating accident in Rabun County, Georgia. The plaintiffs–a family including two adults and four children–took out a boat manufactured by the defendant onto Lake Burton.

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An often overlooked element of many personal injury cases is the emotional harm sustained by the victim. Georgia courts have long recognized “negligent infliction of emotional distress” as a tort, but recovery is generally limited to cases in which the emotional distress is connected to a “physical impact.” In other words, if you are physically hurt in a car accident, you can sue the negligent driver for your emotional trauma, but you cannot seek damages for purely emotional scarring, i.e. watching a loved one die in an accident.

Coon v. Medical Center, Inc.

In 2000, the Georgia Supreme Court made an exception to the “physical impact rule,” holding that when a parent and child are both physically injured in the same accident, the parent can seek damages for the emotional distress caused by watching the child “suffer and die.” Recently, the state Supreme Court declined to extend this exception to another case in which a mother suffered emotional harm after watching a hospital mishandle the remains of her daughter.