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Personal Injury - Emotional Distress Claims & Insurance Coverage

Under Portee v. Jaffee, 84 N.J. 88 (1980), New Jersey law permits a person to file an independent claim for emotional distress resulting from the shock of watching a family member at the scene of an accident suffer or die, or from seeing efforts to revive her/him being unsuccessful. If the incident from which the emotional distress claim arose is due to a car accident, the “per injury" liability limits of the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy will apply to provide coverage for said claim.Wolfe v. State Farm Insurance Company, 224 N.J. Super. 348 (App. Div. 1988), independently from the physically injured person's claim. Since the emotional distress claim is independent from thefamily member's claim for damages, each claim will have separate “per injury" liability limits rather than share under the same “per injury" limits. Id. In effect, a person need not fear that their injured family member will recover less from the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage should he/she wish to press the emotional distress claim.

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