Mental disturbance, though most often associated with the medical field as a categorized and classified area of concern directed towards patients possessing such a condition, is distinct within the field of tort law as well. As far back as damages were legally provided for circumstantial consequences of “mental distress,” the stipulation existed where this was only viable if it arose on the coattails of a bodily affliction.
This became known as a “pain and suffering,” what we’ve come to be familiar with when hearing civil law rulings. In cases such as these, the plaintiff must have been able to prove that the defendant’s own negligence had lead to some physical affliction against them and, therefore, causing the mental distress that fell upon them. This is depicted by the “risk of impact rule,” where these same qualifications exist along with a “zone of danger” condition needed to enable the victim to receive recovery as concerning their deficient mental state.
Presently injury to ones mental not expressly due to any adverse physical condition is accepted as requiring recovery of some sort. They need only acquire some physical contact, in some cases. The “impact rule” calls for such a requirement while not having it necessary to actually attain a physical injury in order to claim damages for mental disturbance as an aftereffect. This, however, has been altered by many regions over the years due to the belief that it lead to more dramatic pleadings as well as drawn-out proceedings, which did nothing more that waste the time and money of the judicial system.
Most other states go further when expressing that they require that the mental affliction be serious enough to be the root cause or origin of physical manifestations of it. In addition, many states specify that a plaintiff need be only in the vicinity of harm to pursue such a complaint. This is usually articulated as residing within a “zone of impact.” Such an instance may be further described in connection to the identification of “bystander recovery” by other locales.
According to such a recognized statute, bystanders who were in the area of “the zone of physical risk” were then eligible to recover from the negligence contributing to their own “mental distress.” Exceptions also exist for bystanders who are deemed not in direct risk of harm. These include: physical proximity to the incident, possessing real-time “sensory perception” of the occurrence, and close relation to the victim or directly afflicted.
There do, however, exist situations in which physicality is not the sole reasoning. In such instances as the mishandling of a family member’s deceased body or the equally mishandled notification of their death, judges may modify their qualifications and rule in favor of recovery for such mental distress these negligent situations may have caused regardless of the absence of any physical harm to the plaintiff in question.
In general, it is quite a trying process for a plaintiff to acquire damages or compensation for any mental disturbance or suffering. This is due to the equal or greater difficulty of attaining proof by the court as to the “emotional damage.” The advent of fraud and other such dishonest claims has made judges both more skeptical and increasingly vigilant in these cases.