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New York Zone of Danger

New York State Zone of Danger Doctrine

Mr. Bovson’s car broke down on the Parkway. He pulled the car over to the side and when to the rear of the car. His wife and child remained in the car. A car driven by Mr. Scanperi struck the back of Bovson’s car causing grievous injuries to Mr. Bovson who was pinned between the two cars and less severe injuries to his wife and child. Although neither the wife nor child actually saw the collision both were instantly aware of the impact and the fact that their husband and father must have been injured, and each, thereafter, saw the injuries he suffered.

The issue presented to the highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals, in Bovson v. Sanperi was can a person recover damages for witnessing a immediate family member get into an accident? In New York, the answer is yes. The concept is known as the Zone of Danger. In order to prove a Zone of Danger case a plaintiff will have to show several things:

  1. That the defendant though his negligence put you in danger of death or injury. In other words, it was possible that you could have been involved in the accident along with your loved one.
  2. That you are contemporaneously aware of the death or serious injury of an immediate family member. For example, in Bovson, a wife and daughter knew their husband/father was involved in an accident when it happened, even though they physically didn’t see it, because they both heard and felt the impact of the defendant’s car hitting their car where their husband/father was located.
  3. The person who is injured must be an immediate family member. That means the person injured must be your mother, father, son, daughter, brother or sister. In New York, to date, no other familial relationships are recognized in a Zone of Danger action. For example, a fiancee is not an immediate family member, even if the accident happens on the way to the wedding.
  4. You have to show a physical or psychic/emotional injury as a consequence of having witnessed the accident. You have to prove through admissible medical evidence, that witnessing the serious injury or death of your immediate family member has caused you harm.

If you believe you have been harmed as a result of witnessing an immediate family member’s accident, call us or e-mail us. Our accident injury lawyers will go over the unfortunate events with you and help determine whether you can make use of the Zone of Danger doctrine provided by New York State.

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