New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers: Witnessing Hospital Mistakes May Harm Family Members

An individual need not sustain physical injury in order to have suffered harm in the eyes of the law. Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) occurs if a party is injured emotionally by the negligence of another.  When a family member has been hospitalized, for example, their loved ones often bear witness to the level of care being administered by medical personnel. New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers note that when a hospital mistake has been made, it not only gives rise to a potential medical malpractice claim but also to a claim for NIED by friends or family left traumatized by what they have seen.

The recent case of Keys v. Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (2015 WL 1346310) illustrates that such a claim is, indeed, viable. In Keys, a patient undergoing thyroid surgery experienced post-op complications which led a respiratory therapist and surgeon to perform suction and the removal of sutures at bedside, as family members looked on.  The patient ultimately stopped breathing, leading medical personnel to initiate CPR, but the life-saving measure was undertaken too late. After developing anoxic encephalopathy, the patient was placed on life support and later died.

Family members settled their claims with the surgeon before proceeding to trial against the hospital. They prevailed, with jurors awarding the family one million dollars for wrongful death and $375,000 for NIED, a sum that was reduced post-trial to $220,000. In February, 2015, the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, affirmed the award.

In order to succeed on a claim for NIED under similar circumstances, an injured bystander must establish not only that they are a close relation to the physically injured victim, and that the injury-producing event caused them severe emotional distress, but also that they were physically present at the time the medical mistake was made and that they were aware the mistake was causing harm to their loved one. A NIED claim can arise outside the medical context; however, and even when no personal injury has been claimed.  To prevail, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a defendant acted negligently, and that as a result of the negligence the plaintiff was either physically impacted or put at risk of being physically harmed.  Many states also require a showing that a defendant should have had reason to foresee that their negligent actions were likely to result in the harm ultimately suffered by a plaintiff.

New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP Pursue NIED Claims

If you have suffered emotional distress after witnessing the injury of a loved one resulting from hospital negligence, New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP will help get you the compensation you deserve.  Contact us online or call 732-777-0100 for a free consultation at one of our offices in Red Bank, Edison and Toms River, New Jersey, where we represent clients throughout the surrounding areas.