Suing for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in Florida

Emotional distress damages may result from an accident or personal injury. Damages are harms or losses sustained by an injured party because of the acts or omissions of another party. Under Florida tort laws, the party causing the harm or injury can be held financially liable for damages

Generally, a person injured in an accident can recover compensation for emotional damages. These damages are considered non-economic damages because the loss is not financial. On the other hand, economic damages compensate you for actual financial losses, such as lost wages and medical bills. 

However, what happens if a party causes you emotional distress without causing a physical injury? Florida’s impact rule addresses that question.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress and Florida’s Impact Rule

Florida uses the impact rule to determine whether an injured party can recover compensation for emotional distress. The rule is from common law, but the Florida Supreme Court has upheld the rule in numerous decisions. The court ruled that the injured party is not entitled to “spiritually intangible” damages without physical harm. 

According to the impact rule, a person must sustain a physical “impact” or physical injury to recover compensation for emotional distress. For example, if you sustain a broken bone in a car accident, you could recover compensation for emotional distress and other damages.

However, if you did not sustain a physical injury because of the car crash, you would not be able to recover compensation for emotional distress. The courts say you cannot recover money for a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress without a physical injury.

That said, there are exceptions to the impact rule.

When Can I Recover Damages for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in Florida?

The impact rule does not apply in cases involving:

  • Intentional torts, such as assault and murder
  • Developing physical symptoms after seeing a family member sustain a catastrophic injury or violent death
  • Disclosing HIV test results in violation of Florida Statute §381.004
  • Wrongful birth injuries, stillbirths, and negligent birth injuries
  • Consuming contaminated food
  • A psychotherapist’s breach of patient confidentiality

In the above cases, the court ruled the injured party may seek compensation for negligent infliction of emotional distress even if the victim did not sustain a physical injury. The best way to determine if your case is an exception to the impact rule is to talk with a personal injury lawyer.

How Is Emotional Distress Defined for Personal Injury Claims?

Emotional distress is the mental suffering caused by an experience or event. Emotional distress is generally determined by the signs and symptoms associated with anguish, extreme distress, and psychological condition. 

Examples of emotional distress related to a personal injury or accident may include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger, frustration, and/or annoyance
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Embarrassment
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • A decrease in quality of life

Everyone experiences emotional distress in unique ways. Your symptoms might not match another person’s symptoms. There is no right or wrong way for emotional distress to manifest after an accident or personal injury.

How Much Can I Receive for a Claim of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?

The amount of money you receive for your claim depends on the type and severity of the symptoms. It also depends on the impact the emotional distress has on your life.

Because emotional distress falls under the category of non-economic damages, there is no standard formula for calculating its value. Instead, jurors and judges must consider the relevant factors for the specific case and decide on a value based on those factors.

Factors that could increase the value of your claim include:

  • Sustaining permanent disabilities and impairments
  • Being diagnosed with a psychological condition, such as depression, anxiety disorder, and PTSD
  • A prolonged recovery period with severe pain
  • Sustaining life-threatening injuries
  • Difficult, invasive, and painful treatments for injuries
  • A significant loss of income and benefits
  • Significant disfigurement and scarring 
  • A child sustaining developmental delays 

Many courts and insurance companies use the multiplier method for calculating pain and suffering damages, including emotional distress. 

A number between 1.5 and 5 is chosen based on the severity of the impact on the person’s life and the specific manifestation of the emotional distress. The most severe cases would have a multiplier of five. The total economic damages time the multiplier equals the value of the claim for emotional distress. 

Insurance companies consistently undervalue non-economic damages because they are subjective and can be challenging to prove. Therefore, always check with a personal injury lawyer in Florida before accepting a settlement offer. An attorney will tell you whether the offer is fair or substantially lower than the value of your claim. 

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm – Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys

Contact a St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer at Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys and schedule a free case review today.

Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys

700 7th Ave N Suite B
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 933-0015