Visitor Question

Suing for Emotional Distress After Car Engine Died on the Freeway?

Submitted By: Helaine (CA)

I was driving my car (with only 35,000 miles on it) on the freeway and the engine died. Luckily we were able to get off the freeway without being hurt.

I’m just wondering if I have a case for emotional distress? Would there be a product liability case against the car manufacturer? Can I get them to pay for a new car and reimbursement for a rental car? Thanks for any info you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Helaine,

Unfortunately no. Although the State of California doesn’t have a law prohibiting an award of money for emotional distress, to be able to recover any money you would almost assuredly have to file a lawsuit.

The breaking down of a car has traditionally not been a legal basis upon which a case for emotional distress can be built.

There is no doubt when the car broke down in the middle of the freeway you were probably in serious danger. But absent serious personal injuries, you really don’t have much of a chance succeeding in a claim against the automobile dealer or the manufacturer of your car.

If, in the unfortunate event you had been seriously injured as a result of an unforeseen breakdown of your car, you might have the basis upon which to consider filing a product liability lawsuit against the automobile dealer and the manufacturer of your car.

Thankfully that wasn’t the case.

If you do plan to file a lawsuit for emotional distress you will have to jump some legal hurdles. First you’ll have to prepare the lawsuit petition, pay the filing fees, and then have the local sheriff or constable serve the defendant(s).

In the absence of injuries it will probably be very difficult to locate an attorney who will undertake your representation.

Breaking down on the freeway can be a dangerous and sometimes humiliating experience. There is no doubt you must have been quite upset about the whole thing.

Our suggestion would be to count to 10, sleep on it, and then forget about it. In all reality pursuing the matter any further may result in your losing a lot of time and energy.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: September 3, 2011

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