New Ruling Gives Rights To Some Victims Of Emotional Distress In Oregon

Law Blog

Victims of emotional distress have a new opportunity in Oregon now to recover for their injuries, thanks to a recent legal decision. If you live in Oregon, this is what you should know about your right to sue for emotional distress.

Emotional distress is not well understood as a legal claim.

Many people assume that you can always sue for emotional distress—which makes sense because most people realize that emotional distress is a real thing that can drastically affect someone's life in very negative ways. However, the law itself is less sympathetic to claims of emotional distress because, unlike a physical injury, they are easy to allege but difficult to prove.

In most cases, the court presumes that there is some sort of emotional distress with any physical injury. If you slip and fall, injuring your back and ending up in the hospital, you would probably be quite naturally upset. However, that tie to your physical injury is what makes the emotional distress part of a claim like that easier to allow.

If you try to sue purely for emotional distress, when it isn't really clear what sort of actual physical harm you suffered as the result of an incident, it can be much more difficult to assert a claim. You essentially have to prove things in the reverse order of a physical injury claim by alleging that the emotional injury happened first and the physical injury occurred second, manifesting itself through things like sleeplessness, anxiety, a fear of public places, and so on.

In Oregon, you couldn't claim emotional distress unless you were physically injured.

The ability to claim emotional distress led to an injury that is compensatable by law is so difficult to pursue that some states have historically denied it altogether. No matter how outrageous the conduct, no matter how upset it left you or scarred you psychologically, Oregon was one of four states that barred you from receiving damages unless you also experienced a physical injury.

It took the tragic death of a 7-year-old boy and a case that went all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court to change that. The child, named Austin, was crossing the street in a crosswalk in the presence of his 12-year-old and 9-year-old brothers when a truck turned the corner and ran over him, narrowly missing the other two boys. Austin died at the scene, his chest crushed by the truck's tire.

Attorneys for the surviving brothers argued that witnessing their brother's painful and graphic death and narrowly escaping death themselves caused the boys severe emotional distress, including depression and panic attacks. They eventually won the case. 

While this still leaves the law in Oregon somewhat strictly construed—only close relatives of an injured person who are there to witness the injury take place can sue for emotional distress without injuries of their own—it does loosen the old rules. Any loosening in the law is generally considered a major event, legally, and can pave the way for additional cases that may continue to spread the boundaries of the rule, one at a time.

If you think that you may have a case for emotional distress, even if you weren't physically injured, contact a personal injury lawyer in your area for more information about what your rights are to sue.


13 January 2017

Every Business Owner Needs to Be Well-versed in Law

While I took a few business classes in college, I left early to start my own business. I thought I had the knowledge I needed to become a great business owner and was eager to start my business. Soon, I had a new business that was actually performing pretty well in sales. Unfortunately, I hadn't taken any law courses in college, and I soon realized I made a few mistakes when starting my business that could cause me some legal trouble. Thankfully, a great business lawyer helped me correct my mistakes before I had any legal problems, but I then decided to take those business law courses. I want to help business owners and anyone else who would like to learn more about the law by starting a blog where I will share what I have learned and will continue to learn. I hope I can help you!