Man on a stretcher


When someone suffers from a personal injury, such as a car accident or a slip and fall, they may be able to sue for different kinds of damages. These include not just physical pain but also emotional distress, which describes intense suffering on an emotional level. However, when it comes to personal injury cases in which the defendant is accused of negligence, the New Jersey legal system has established that the injured person is not the only person who can make a claim for this type of hurt. Here is what you need to know about filing a Portee claim in NJ.

portee claim

What is a Portee Claim?

When someone files a Portee claim, they make a claim for compensation on the grounds that while they were not injured themselves, they still had to cope with emotional distress after witnessing someone to whom they are close receive an injury. In this regard, a Portee claim is similar to a typical claim for emotional distress. The main difference lies in who is able to make them. A person who receives an injury may file for emotional distress in addition to their other damages; while a person who observed that person receive an injury may separately file a Portee claim.

Plaintiffs have to prove four conditions in order to make this type of claim. They are as follows:

Negligence as a Cause

Negligence on the part of the defendant must be the direct cause of the injury or death that is the subject of the claim. The injury has to be “serious” in order for someone to qualify for a Portee claim. So it’s use isn’t for just any physical injury case.

Specific Relationship with the Injured

The plaintiff must have a “marital or intimate, familial relationship” with the person who sustained injuries or died due to the negligence of the defendant. This does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff has to be a blood relative or spouse of the victim: they may be able to qualify for a Portee claim if their relationship was on an emotional level resembling that of a spouse or close family member.

portee claim

Observing the Injury as It Happened

The plaintiff must have witnessed the injury or death “at the scene of the accident”. As opposed to, for example, at the hospital while the injured person underwent treatment. While this originally entailed that the plaintiff had to see the injury or death as it was occurring, a case from 2014 established a new precedent that grants people the right to claim compensation if they saw the results of the injury immediately after the incident occurred.

“Severe Emotional Distress”

Witnessing this injury or death must have caused the person making the claim to suffer from “severe emotional distress”. This generally means that the emotional effects of watching the injury unfold had to be: long-lasting; highly disruptive in daily life; and difficult to recover from.

If you wish for assistance in filing a Portee claim in NJ or want to know whether your case may qualify you to file one, contact the Law Offices of James C. Dezao, P.A. Our NJ personal injury attorneys are experienced enough to recognize when you may be able to make a Portee claim and how to make and defend that claim. For more information, call us at (973) 358-6134 and receive a free consultation today.