Emotional Distress May Linger for San Bruno Pipeline Victims

On September 9, 2010, a 28 foot -long section of pipe owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric Company ruptured in the Crestmoor neighborhood of San Bruno, Calif. killing eight residents, injuring many and leaving several homeless. The explosion and the fire that followed created a 72 by 25 foot crater, destroyed over 35 homes and damaged many more.As the one-year anniversary of this tragedy approaches in September, many of the town’s residents continue to suffer from emotional and mental distress caused by the explosion. Emotional or mental distress is a very real injury that can last for years. An experienced personal injury attorney can be an advocate for victims of tragedies like the San Bruno pipeline explosion so they can get the help and support they need to move forward with their lives.

Emotional Distress

Emotional distress, which is sometimes known as mental anguish, mental suffering or mental distress, refers to the pain and suffering caused by another person’s behavior.

Symptoms of emotional or mental distress include fear, nervousness, grief, anxiety, shock and humiliation. Physical pain may accompany these symptoms or may manifest on its own. Long-lasting symptoms may be so damaging that the victim feels he or she can no longer cope with the stress of daily activities.

Coping with Emotional Distress

Ideally, individuals suffering from emotional distress will seek the help of a medical doctor, psychologist and/or psychiatrist. Additionally, studies have shown that the incorporation of social support networks can be critical to recovery.

Right to Recover in California

Under California law, victims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional or metal distress have the right to recover damages.

To recover from a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress a plaintiff will have to show that the defendant engaged in some sort of outrageous conduct in the presence of the plaintiff and with the full knowledge of the plaintiff’s presence. The behavior must have been made with a conscious or reckless disregard of the likelihood of causing an injury. Finally, the plaintiff must show that they suffered severe and extreme emotional distress and the defendant’s outrageous conduct was the cause of it. The defendant’s behavior cannot simply be annoying or upsetting. It must be so egregious and horrible that it would not be tolerated by a decent society.

To recover from a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress a plaintiff must show that a defendant was either negligent in his or her behavior or intentionally ignored a statutory standard. The plaintiff must next show that he or she suffered serious emotional injuries as direct result of the defendant’s actions. It is not necessary to show any physical injury.

The person seeking damages for mental or emotional distress does not always need to be the intended victim. In certain situations, individuals exposed to imminent peril and bystanders may also file a claim.

Preserving Legal Rights

When a catastrophe like the San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion occurs, the impact can be intense and enduring for the victims, their families and the community at large. While the residents physically injured by the accident will eventually heal and the damaged or destroyed property will be repaired or rebuilt, the scars from the explosion may last for years.

If you have been injured in an accident and are suffering emotional distress, you should speak with a local personal injury attorney with a strong record of advocating for their clients. A lawyer can be an excellent advocate and can review your options with you.

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