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When Can You Recover Emotional Distress Damages in a Florida Personal Injury Case?

Damages such as medical expenses, property damage and lost wages are tangible damages that plaintiffs pursue in personal injury cases. In addition, when an injury case meets certain legal qualifications, plaintiffs sometimes can recover damages for emotional distress. A personal injury attorney in Jacksonville can evaluate your case and consult about your right to pursue emotional distress damages.

An article published by the Florida Bar explains the Florida impact rule, which is relevant to recovering emotional distress damages. The impact rule initially began in 1893 with the case International Ocean Telegraph Co. v. Saunders. In this case, the court ruled that for a plaintiff to recover damages for emotional distress caused by someone else’s negligence, the plaintiff must sustain an impact and suffer the emotional distress as a result of physical injuries. Since that time, various other cases have come before Florida courts and sought emotional distress damages, which have led to other rulings. A later case, Zell v. Meek (1995) resulted in a court decision (and many courts citing the precedent since then) that emotional distress resulting from negligence is valid when the following elements exist:

  • Plaintiff suffers a physical injury
  • Plaintiff’s physical injury is caused by psychological trauma
  • Plaintiff was in some way involved in the event where negligent injury was caused to another
  • Plaintiff had a close personal relationship to the directly injured person

In essence, pursuing emotional distress damages is a complicated area of Florida law because of the impact rule, which now has particular exceptions that courts allow. The best way to find out whether you can recover damages for emotional distress is to discuss your case with an experienced Jacksonville personal injury lawyer.

The Gillette Law Firm has provided clients with excellent representation in personal injury cases since 1989.

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