Suing for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in Florida

If you sustain injuries in a car accident or are injured due to the actions or inactions of another individual, you may be entitled to certain damages. These generally include economic and non-economic damages. Non-economic damages can include relief for pain and suffering, which includes emotional distress. 

However, in order to claim emotional distress, there must be some physical injury, Florida law requires that the party claiming emotional distress have physical injuries, too; this is also known as the “Impact Rule,” which will be further discussed below.

The Impact Rule

Florida law requires that a plaintiff suing for negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”) must also have sustained a physical injury. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule that will award a plaintiff relief to their NIED claim.

Background to the Impact Rule

In Florida, the impact rule was first applied in the Florida Supreme Court case of International Ocean Telegraph Company v. Saunders. This Florida Supreme Court case dealt with a plaintiff who filed a claim of mental pain and suffering against a telegraph company for failing to deliver an urgent telegram promptly from a hospital. 

The telegram included information about the plaintiff’s wife dying and for him to come to the hospital quickly. The telegraph company delayed the message for approximately 60 hours before delivering it to the plaintiff, at which time the plaintiff’s wife had already passed 10 hours prior.

The Florida Supreme Court held that the underlying claim was solely for mental pain and suffering and that the actual economic damages would only amount to the price of the telegram. The Court’s explanation was primarily based on the idea that emotional distress is hard to prove in its amount, so this type of claim needed to be linked to additional evidence of actual, physical harm affecting the plaintiff.  

Exceptions to the Impact Rule

Florida, although strict on its view for emotional distress claims, does have exceptions for this rule that they will apply to the following circumstances:

  • Witnessing violent/catastrophic death or injury of a family member (see the Champion v. Gray or Zell v. Meek case for further examples)
  • Psychotherapist breaches doctor/patient confidentiality
  • Negligent or wrongful birth injuries or stillbirths
  • Consuming food that has been contaminated
  • Intentional tort
  • Disclosure of an HIV test result in violation of section 381.004, Florida Statutes

In some rare cases, there are unique circumstances in which a person can sue for NIED (see the Willis v. Gami Golden Glades, LLC case for further example). However, regardless of the above exceptions, Florida courts will still require some physical impact or manifestation of emotional injuries for an NIED claim.  

Qualifications of Claim for Emotional Distress

As stated previously, relief for an emotional distress claim would be in the form of non-economic damages. Emotional distress may appear in various ways, including the following:

  • Embarrassment
  • Fear or anxiety or panic attacks
  • Frustration or anger
  • Oversleeping
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of enjoyment of life or decrease in quality of life
  • Depression
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Suicidal thoughts

Events have various levels and each person is unique in how these events may affect them. Each case will be different because each plaintiff is different.

Assigning a Monetary Value to Emotional Distress

An NIED claim is not a simple claim in which to calculate damages; this amount will vary drastically with every case. The amount will depend highly on the facts of each plaintiff’s case in the type of symptoms experienced, the impact of the emotional distress on that person’s life, and the severity of the emotional symptoms.

Certain symptoms listed below may increase the amount of damages, but this is not a guarantee:

  • Permanent disability or impairment
  • Life-threatening injury
  • Difficult and invasive treatment(s)
  • Prolonged recovery period
  • Diagnosis of a psychological condition
  • Disfigurement

Non-economic damages are notoriously difficult to evaluate, sometimes requiring an expert to arrive at a reasonable figure.

A Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help With Your Emotional Distress Claim

Do not leave this kind of claim up to chance. If you or a loved one is suffering from emotional distress brought on by a vehicular accident or by injury due to someone else’s negligence, you will want to contact a licensed attorney with personal injury claim experience. These cases are unique and need to be investigated and advocated properly.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in South Florida

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Boca Raton personal injury lawyers at Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers at the location nearest you for a free consultation:

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Boca Raton Law Office
7000 W Palmetto Park Rd #500
Boca Raton, FL 33433
(561) 347-7770

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Fort Lauderdale Law Office
200 S.E. 6th Street #203
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 287-0566

Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – West Palm Beach Law Office
319 Clematis St #203
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
(561) 556-7873