Can a Florida Car Accident Suit Be Filed for Emotional Distress?
You can sue for emotional distress after a car accident in Florida, but proving such a claim can be easier when plaintiffs can show how the physical injuries they suffered in a crash directly caused psychological harm.
Car accidents are often traumatic experiences for victims, and survivors can struggle mentally and emotionally long after the accident is over. If you or a loved one is recovering from a collision and wants to sue the liable party for emotional trauma, you can work with a Florida personal injury lawyer who can explain the steps you must take to file a pain and suffering lawsuit.
What Is Emotional Distress?
Emotional distress is a term describing the various forms of mental or psychological suffering that can occur after a disturbing event. Emotional distress is also called mental anguish, and it can be temporary or a symptom of a mental health disorder, such as anxiety and depression. It is an intangible loss in Florida, meaning it has no fixed dollar amount.
People with emotional distress commonly experience adverse emotions after a terrifying event. These symptoms typically last a short time and resolve on their own. However, if they last for weeks or months, one’s mental health can deteriorate.
Emotional distress symptoms include the following:
- Appetite changes
- Anger or irritability
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness
- Trouble concentrating or remembering things
- Struggling to keep up with daily tasks, daily routine
- Excessive worry
- Sleep difficulties (e.g., insomnia)
- Social isolation
- Mood changes, mood swings
- Drug and alcohol use
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Car Accident Victims Can Experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
According to the National Center for PTSD, if people experience upsetting memories or other problems a month or longer after a life-threatening event, they may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
This condition is marked by various symptoms, including reliving an event or avoiding things that remind them of the distressing event. For example, if you avoid driving because it reminds you of a car accident, you may have PTSD.
When Can You Sue for Emotional Distress in Florida?
Plaintiffs who experience emotional distress can file a pain and suffering lawsuit to recover damages. In Florida, there are two main types of emotional distress claims:
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). Florida negligence laws require plaintiffs to prove the opposing party’s careless or negligent actions caused their emotional distress. A NIED claim allows them to seek compensatory damages for psychological harm. However, their emotional distress claim must also satisfy Florida’s impact rule (also called the physical impact rule). It requires fort myers car accident lawyer victims to prove a direct physical impact caused their emotional suffering.
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED): Injured parties can file this claim if the defendant’s intentional actions caused the plaintiffs’ emotional harm. In Florida, they must prove the opposing party’s actions that injured them psychologically were extreme or severe.
A Florida personal injury attorney can determine which claim fits your Miami car accident lawyer lawsuit and advise you further on the damages you can demand from the at-fault party.
Recoverable Compensation for Damages After a Florida Car Accident
In Florida, plaintiffs with emotional distress after a car accident can sue the liable parties for economic (financial) and non-economic (non-financial) losses such as:
- Therapy and mental health counseling expenses. If you must see a mental health professional for treatment, such as a psychologist or a therapist, you can demand compensation for the costs of these services.
- Medical expenses. If you must receive medical treatment for emotional distress, you can seek compensation for the treatment, tests, prescription medications, and other health care expenses.
- Lost income, reduced earning ability. You could recover awards for the earnings you lost if you had to take time away from your job or could not earn a living due to the emotional distress you suffered from a car wreck.
- Loss of companionship, loss of consortium. If a car accident changes your relationship with a spouse where you are deprived of the benefits of having a spouse or parenting children, you could claim a loss of consortium.
- Loss of enjoyment of life. If you can no longer enjoy a hobby or participate in an activity because of a car accident, you can demand monetary compensation for this loss.
While emotional distress is a non-financial loss, it causes tangible and intangible damages, as this list shows. If you or a loved one has noticed a decline in your mental health since being in a car crash in Florida, you can file a car accident lawsuit to recover both types of personal injury damages.
How a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Can Prove an Emotional Distress Case
If you pursue filing a car accident lawsuit, an attorney can collect evidence to support your emotional distress claim, such as:
- Medical bills, statements
- Medical records, doctor’s notes
- Eyewitness testimony, including family members, caregivers, home health aides
- Expert witness testimony (e.g., a mental health professional who treated you or is familiar with the treatment you received)
- A personal journal, photos, and/or video footage documenting your daily life since the crash
An attorney can also investigate the accident and determine which parties are accountable for your damages, including third parties not at the crash scene. They can also lead settlement talks with an insurance company and take your emotional distress lawsuit to trial if they cannot settle it.
They can also advise you on the timelines and deadlines of your case. In Florida, car accident victims generally have two years from the accident date to file a civil lawsuit, per Florida Statutes § 95.11.
Call The Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato After a Florida Car Accident
Psychological injuries are invisible but real to the people experiencing them. Florida allows car accident victims to sue for emotional distress after a car accident. Still, they generally must prove how their physical injuries directly caused their emotional injuries before collecting emotional distress compensation.
The car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato can lead your case for financial recovery while you care for your physical and emotional needs after a Florida car wreck. Call us today for a free consultation at (954) 633-8270.