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New Jerseyans who suffer emotional distress after witnessing the death or serious injury of a family member in a car accident can claim damages from auto insurance companies, the state Supreme Court ruled today.

In a 4-3 decision, the high court said that some claims of emotional trauma are not subject to the “verbal threshold” provision in the 1998 state law that limits a driver’s ability to sue

The case was brought by awoman who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after watching her mother die when their car was rear-ended in Newark in 2000. She filed a claim based on her emotional distress, which was dismissed by a trial court in April 2004 because her own physical injuries did not meet the “verbal threshold” requirement of the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act of 1998.

The N.J. Supreme Courtshould be applauded for standing up forthose unfortunate persons who, through no fault of their own, suffer serious emotional injury as a result of having witnessed serious personal injury or death of a loved one as a result of another’s negligence.

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