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Courts split on NIED claims in Uninsured/Underinsured motorist cases

When a motor vehicle accident occurs, both physical and mental-emotional harm can result to victims. Even those who don’t suffer any physical harm in a car accident may suffer mental-emotional harm.

In such cases, it is sometimes possible to be awarded damages under a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotion distress (NIED). Actions for NEID are allowed in most states, but the question remains in many states whether claims for NIED are allowed under uninsured/underinsured motorist policies. 

NIED claims are derivative claims, meaning they do not exist apart from a case involving physical injury. Such claims often entail specific requirements with respect to the relationship between the injured person and the one suing for the NIED claim. Often, there must be a blood relationship.  

Most courts that have tackled the issue have concluded that when a policy describes coverage for “bodily injury,” they are not meaning to include claims for mental or emotional distress apart from physical injuries to the insured. Some courts have found NIED coverage when the policy language is not unambiguous with respect to the term “bodily injury.” In this section of cases, courts have yet to resolve the issue of whether NIED claims in such cases are subject to the single per person limit of coverage.

Claims for NIED are relatively rare, given the unique fact scenario which they address, but they do occur. Because the issues pertaining to these cases are unresolved, litigation will likely have to address the issue in the future. For those who are wondering whether they can receive coverage for mental-emotional injuries in such cases, it is well to consult with an experienced attorney. 

Source: Claims Journal, “Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims and Uninsured Motorists/Underinsured Motorists Coverage,” Steven Plitt, September 30, 2013. 

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