Understanding the Florida Impact Rule

florida impact rule

When you are seriously hurt in a motor vehicle collision or another type of injury accident, your injuries may extend beyond physical pain and damage. The experience can be traumatic both mentally and emotionally.

Under Florida’s so-called impact rule, however, it can be difficult to recover compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or emotional distress.

To recover compensation, you must demonstrate that any emotional damages you suffered caused physical harm or were the result of physical injuries. In other words, under Florida law, you cannot recover compensation for purely emotional injuries.

An experienced Florida personal injury attorney who understands these onerous legal requirements can assist you in getting justice and recovering the damages you deserve.

Understanding the Impact Rule

Also known sometimes as the physical impact rule, the impact rule is a holdover from the late 1800s. In 1893, the Florida Supreme Court ruled against a plaintiff who sought damages for mental suffering and disappointment.

The Court cited the near impossibility of establishing damage values for what the Court called “spiritually intangible” injuries. Essentially, this means that a plaintiff has no grounds to pursue compensation if they did not sustain physical harm.

Today, only a few states (including Florida) follow the impact rule. However, case law has, over time, carved out multiple exceptions to the rule. In fact, the Florida Supreme Court did, in 1985, carve out an exception: victims can pursue a legal claim for emotional distress if the distress led to physical manifestation.

For example, you could have a valid emotional distress claim if you witnessed a loved one sustain a severe injury and, as a result, experienced negative physical manifestations of your mental and emotional trauma.

Physical manifestation can occur in a manner similar to PTSD symptoms or in the form of a stomach ulcer, chronic headaches, chest pains, tachycardia, etc.

Other specific exceptions to the impact rule in Florida currently exist. However, the best way to determine whether those exceptions might apply to your case is to talk to an experienced attorney.

How to Pursue a Claim for Emotional Distress in Florida

To be clear, many victims do recover compensation for an emotional distress claim in Florida, despite the impact rule. However, your attorney must have the knowledge, experience, and resources to build your case effectively, including demonstrating a clear link between an emotional trauma and the resulting physical harm.

In many cases, your attorney can make a demand to the at-fault party’s insurance company and negotiate a settlement on your behalf. If the insurance company denies the claim or attempts to make an undervalued settlement, your attorney might recommend filing a civil suit.

Talk to a Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today for Help

Since 1913, the dedicated personal injury lawyers of Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon have been fighting to get justice for our clients. We recognize that emotional trauma can be just as devastating and painful as physical injuries. We offer innovative solutions and legal representation that is tailored to your specific needs.

Before you speak to the insurance company or provide any statement, contact us to learn more. You can call our offices at 850-444-4878 or contact us online to speak to one of our compassionate personal injury attorneys or to learn more about how the Florida impact rule could affect your case.