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Personal Injury – Impact Rule and Bystander Recovery

In the realm of personal injury cases, (have you heard television attorney’s ask “have you been injured in a car accident?”), there are several types of injuries that can occur to your body and mind. People have usually heard “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Meaning, someone caused a non-physical injury to another person that resulted in stress, anxiety, fear, or other mental maladies.

The “Impact Rule” refers to the notion that in order to collect on damages (money) for mental injuries, there must also be an accompanying physical injury (or impact to the body). This means that a mental injury alone is not sufficient to sue someone on. Thus, a host tort is necessary to raise a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. A host tort is a term used to describe what the type of physical injury that is the claim for relief (battery, assault, etc.).

Once there is a host tort, one can raise a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, which requires proof of intent to harm someone emotionally. This means that emotional distress cannot just be an unintended consequence, but the actor had to intend to cause emotional distress. In addition to intending to cause emotional distress, the actor’s behavior towards the victim must be “extreme and outrageous.” “Extreme and Outrageous” generally means that the actions have to be beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.

The Impact Rule is still alive in Indiana today. However, there are some modifications, such as the bystander rule, which may not require a “direct” impact to one’s person, to seek damages (money) for the emotional harm caused by another. This is where a personal injury attorney may focus in certain cases. So for, example, if you witnessed a horrific car accident, this along would not be sufficient, unless a piece of the rubble from the accident hit you. Then you would have potential tort claim.

We hope that you have found this information to be helpful. This is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions or concerns about your specific case, CIYOU & DIXON, P.C. can help evaluate your specific case. This blog post was written by Attorney, Lori B. Schmeltzer.


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Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Ciyou & Dixon will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. In addition, this practice focus is augmented by the firm's other three core areas, namely appellate advocacy, civil practice, and firearms law. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counselSM.

Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. of Indianapolis, Indiana, offers legal services for Indianapolis, Zionsville, Noblesville, Carmel, Avon, Anderson, Danville, Greenwood, Brownsburg, Geist, Fortville, McCordsville, Muncie, Greenfield, Westfield, Fort Wayne, Fishers, Bloomington, Lafayette, Marion County, Hamilton County, Hendricks County, Allen County, Delaware County, Morgan County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Vigo County, Johnson County, Hancock County, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.