Emotional distress is a term used in personal injury cases to describe the emotional response or mental suffering caused by an accident or injury. Emotional distress falls under the category of non-economic damages. These damages are also referred to as pain and suffering damages because they represent the mental, emotional, and physical harm sustained by a personal injury victim. 

Some states allow individuals to sue for the negligent infliction of emotional distress even though they did not sustain a physical injury. Florida’s impact rule requires the person to have evidence of a physical injury that links to emotional distress before they can file a lawsuit. 

What Is the Impact Rule and How Does It Work in Florida?

The Impact Rule is the legal theory that a person must have sustained a physical injury to sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). There is no statute that enacts the Impact Rule as law. 

The basis is found in common law, but the Florida Supreme Court has upheld the legal theory in many court cases. The Florida Supreme Court first applied the impact rule in their June 1893 ruling in the case of International Ocean Telegraph v. Saunders

The ”impact” is a physical injury. For example, you sustain a broken leg because of a slip and fall accident. 

Physical pain and emotional suffering are linked to physical injury. Therefore, you can recover compensation for your pain and suffering because it includes a physical injury.

However, suppose you were in a car accident. The crash made you anxious and frightened to ride in a vehicle, but you did not sustain any physical injuries. Therefore, under Florida’s Impact Rule, you could not sue for NIED.

Are There Exceptions to the Impact Rule? 

Even though Florida courts have been very strict and consistent when applying the Impact Rule, there are exceptions to the general rule. Exceptions to the Impact Rule apply in cases involving:

  • Intentional torts, including murder and assault
  • Developing physical symptoms after witnessing the catastrophic or violent death or injury of a family member 
  • A breach of patient confidentiality by a psychotherapist
  • Disclosing the result of an HIV test in violation of Florida Statute §381.004
  • Wrongful or negligent stillbirths or birth injuries
  • Consuming contaminated food

The best way to know whether you can sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress is to discuss your situation with a Port St. Lucie personal injury lawyer. An experienced injury attorney researches case law and apply that law to your situation to determine whether your case falls into one of the exemptions to file an NIED claim. 

How Is Emotional Distress Defined?

Everyone experiences a traumatic event differently. Therefore, it can be difficult to define emotional distress. However, the signs and symptoms of emotional distress that can be used to support an NIED claim could include the following:

  • Depression
  • Panic attacks, fear, or anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Oversleeping
  • Eating disorders
  • Mood swings 
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Anger and frustration 
  • Embarrassment 

There is no “one size fits all” way to deal with mental anguish and emotional distress after an accident or injury. The symptoms of emotional distress may manifest in different ways and at different times.

Keeping a “pain and suffering” journal can help calculate the value of non-economic damages. Include details about your emotional state and how your symptoms impact your daily life. In addition, include details about the symptoms, including their severity and duration.

How Much Is My Claim for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Worth?

There is no standard formula for calculating the value of non-economic damages, including emotional distress. However, we can analyze the factors of the case to help determine the value of the claim. Factors that usually increase the value of emotional distress and non-economic damages include:

  • Permanent impairments and disabilities
  • Experiencing severe and/or chronic pain
  • Significant scarring and disfigurement
  • Amputations and loss of limbs
  • Invasive, difficult, and painful medical treatments
  • Prolonged recovery period 
  • Losing hearing, vision, or bodily functions
  • A child sustains development delays
  • Diagnosed psychological conditions

The multiplier method is a common method for valuing non-economic damages. A number between 1.5 and five is assigned based on the severity and extent of injuries and damages. Catastrophic injuries and long-term impairments increase the number closer to five.

The value of non-economic damages equals the total of economic damages multiplied by the number (multiplier). Insurance companies argue for the lowest multiplier. Providing evidence of the extent of your injuries and damages can help increase the multiplier to maximize the settlement amount. 

Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Kibbey Wagner, PLLC in South Florida For Help Today

For more information, please contact the Stuart, Port St. Lucie, or Palm Beach Gardens personal injury law firm of Kibbey Wagner, PLLC, at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We proudly serve Martin County, St. Lucie County, Palm Beach County, and its surrounding areas:

Kibbey Wagner, PLLC – Stuart
73 SW Flagler Ave
Stuart, FL 34994
(772) 444-7000

Kibbey Wagner, PLLC – Port St. Lucie
1100 SW St. Lucie West Blvd. Ste 202
Port St Lucie, FL 34986
(772) 247-3374

Kibbey Wagner, PLLC – Palm Beach Gardens
300 Avenue of the Champions Ste 220
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
(561) 944-4000