Suing For Negligent Infliction Of Emotional Distress in Florida
Bill Allen | May 31, 2022 | Florida Law
A person injured in an accident sustains several different types of damages. Accident victims generally suffer physical injuries that can cause medical bills, lost wages, and other economic damages. However, their physical injuries also cause non-economic damages.
Non-economic damages represent the “pain and suffering” you experience because of a personal injury or accident. It includes the physical pain and permanent impairments caused by injuries. It also includes emotional distress.
Generally, accident victims can recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages. However, if you do not sustain physical injuries, you might not be able to recover compensation for emotional distress.
Florida’s Impact Rule for Emotional Distress
Some states apply the impact rule to personal injury claims, including Florida. Compensation for emotional distress is only allowed if the victim sustains a physical “impact” or injury, among other elements. The impact rule originates in common law but has been upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.
For example, suppose you are involved in a motorcycle accident. The motorcycle crash causes you to sustain a back injury. You can recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and other economic damages.
However, because you sustained a “physical” impact (i.e., your back injury), you can also recover compensation for emotional distress. If you had not sustained a physical injury, you could not sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Exceptions to the Impact Rule in Florida
The courts have also held there are specific exceptions to the impact rule. In those situations, a person can sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress and receive compensation without sustaining a physical injury.
Exceptions to the impact rule for filing a lawsuit seeking damages for emotional distress in Florida include:
- Negligent birth injuries, stillbirths, and wrongful birth injuries
- Developing physical symptoms after witnessing the violent death or catastrophic injury of a family member
- Consuming contaminated food
- Disclosing an HIV test result that violates Florida Statute §381.004
- Intentional torts
- Breach of patient confidentiality by a psychotherapist
A thorough understanding of Florida’s impact rule and negligence claims is required to determine whether a case qualifies as an exception to the impact rule. The best way to know if you can sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress is to discuss your case with a Gainesville personal injury lawyer.
What Qualifies as Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Claim?
Emotional distress covers various psychological conditions and symptoms of anguish and extreme distress. Examples of conditions and symptoms of emotional distress include, but are not limited to:
- Anxiety and/or fear
- Panic attacks
- Sleeping too much or insomnia
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Anger, annoyance, and/or frustration
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Suicidal thoughts
- Diminished quality of life
Each person’s experience after an accident or personal injury is unique. Therefore, suffering cannot be defined as a “one-size-fits-all” condition. Instead, the circumstances and facts of the case combined with the person’s unique condition affect how severely someone might be impacted by emotional distress after a personal injury or accident.
How Much Is a Claim for the Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Worth?
It is challenging to put a price on a person’s pain and suffering. There is no standard formula or statutory guideline for calculating the value of a claim for emotional distress. Many insurance companies, courts, and personal injury lawyers use the multiplier method for calculating non-economic damages.
The parties agree on a multiplier between 1.5 and five, with five representing the highest level of suffering. The total economic damages times the multiplier equals the value of emotional distress and other non-economic damages.
Of course, an insurance company fights for the lowest multiplier to save money. On the other hand, personal injury lawyers argue for higher multipliers to increase how much money their client receives for damages.
Factors that generally increase a multiplier in a personal injury case include:
- Life-threatening conditions
- Disabilities and permanent impairments
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Long recovery duration
- Diagnosed psychological conditions, including PTSD, clinical depression, etc.
- Cognitive and emotional impairments
- Developmental impairments for childhood injuries
- A significant amount of lost wages and medical bills
Deciding how much to accept for a personal injury settlement can be difficult if you are not aware of the types of damages you can recover and the value of those damages. Insurance adjusters consistently undervalue claims.
Therefore, it is always best to talk with a lawyer before settling a claim. Signing a settlement agreement generally waives your right to pursue more money or claims, even if you realize the insurance company underpaid your claim.
Contact Our Ocala Personal Injury Law Firm in North Central Florida
We have two convenient locations in North Central Florida: