Question: What is the “Bystander Rule”?
Answer: Standard for negligent infliction of emotional distress. To recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must sustain a direct impact by the negligence of another and, by virtue of that involvement sustain an emotional trauma which is serious in nature and of a kind and extent normally expected to occur in a reasonable person. This is commonly referred to as the Modified Impact Rule. However, the Bystander Rule is an exception to Indiana’s Modified Impact Rule. To recover under the rule, a bystander must establish direct involvement with the incident.
In determining whether a plaintiff can recover, we consider 3 factors: (1) the severity of the victim’s injury; (2) the relationship of the plaintiff to the victim; and (3) the circumstances surrounding the plaintiff’s discovery of the victim’s injury. These criteria are derived from the public policy considerations that underlie and define a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. They therefore are issues of law for a court to resolve. To satisfy the “circumstances surrounding the plaintiff’s discovery of the victim’s injury” factor of the Bystander Rule: the bystander must come on the scene at or immediately following the incident; the claimant must not have been informed of the incident before coming upon the scene; and the scene and victim must be in essentially the same condition as immediately following the incident.