Damages for a Fatal Car Accident Witnessed by Family Members

In Needleman v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance, Co., 352 Pa. Super. 288, 507 A.2d 1233 (Pa. Super. 1986), a child was killed when struck by an automobile in front of her house and her death was witnessed by her family members. The family members filed an action seeking compensation for psychiatric and psychological care due to witnessing the death. The Superior Court determined that the family members who witnessed the accident were not "victims" and did not suffer an "injury" as defined under the old no-fault motor vehicle insurance act. Thus, Needleman is also distinguishable, as the family members did not suffer any physical injury, as Sider did in the present controversy. In attempting to define "bodily function", we find that the term "bodily" is defined as "of or relating to the body." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 245 (1986). The term "body" is defined as "the total organized physical substance of an animal or plant: the aggregate of tissues: the physical organism: as (1) the material part or nature of man...(3) the person of a human being... Id. at 246. "Function" is defined as "the normal and specific contribution of any bodily part (as a tissue, organ, or system) to the economy of a living organism. Id. at 921. The "brain" has been defined as "the portion of the vertebrate central nervous system that constitutes the organ of thought and neural coordination, including all the higher nervous centers...." Id. at 266. Our Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Alexander, 477 Pa. 190, 194, 383 A.2d 887, 889 (1978), confirmed that the head is "a very vital part of the human body." Thus, the brain is a "material part" of man and when physically injured, fits the definition of a "bodily injury."