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Can Someone Recover for Emotional Injuries After Witnessing a Florida Accident?

For many, when anxieties run high, physical symptoms can set in. Commonly, symptoms of heightened anxiety are sweaty palms, heart palpitations, dizziness, or nausea. However, when a triggering event is serious enough – like witnessing a fatal Florida car accident – the symptoms can get much worse.

Recognizing this reality, Florida courts have determined that those who suffer physical symptoms as a result of witnessing a psychologically traumatic event may be able to recover for their injuries – both physical and emotional. This claim is called negligent infliction of emotional distress, or NIED.

Interestingly, NIED is not mentioned anywhere in the Florida Statutes. Instead, this cause of action was developed entirely through the court system. Essentially, courts were getting cases in which those who witnessed serious accidents involving a loved one were attempting to recover for the injuries they sustained from the person who caused the accident. Since there was no statute guiding the courts on how to handle these matters, the courts had to decide for themselves what the elements were to substantiate such a claim.

The most known case discussing NIED in Florida was issued in 1995. That case outlined the elements of a Florida NIED claim as follows:

  • The plaintiff must have suffered a physical injury of some type;
  • The plaintiff’s physical injury must be caused by a psychological trauma;
  • The plaintiff must have been involved in, or have witnessed, the event causing the injury to another person; and
  • The plaintiff must have a close personal relationship to the injured person.

By requiring a physical injury, courts rejected those cases alleging only psychological injuries, in part due to a difficulty in verifying the injuries. A recent case illustrates the type of physical injury necessary to satisfy that element of a Florida NIED claim.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff witnessed his wife suffer a heart attack while she was wearing a wearable defibrillator manufactured by the defendant. The defendant suffered “muscle and stomach pain” as a result of the “sad and devastating death” of his wife. Among the claims brought by the plaintiff was a claim for NIED.

The court, however, rejected the plaintiff’s claim, based on insufficient evidence of a physical injury. The court explained that the physical injury element of an NIED claim requires a concrete injury, rather than generalized injuries such as elevated blood pressure or “pain and suffering.”

The court did, however, acknowledge the possibility that since the time the case was filed, the plaintiff’s injuries may have manifested into more concrete symptoms. In such an event, the court instructed the plaintiff to amend his complaint to include the more recently developed concrete examples of his physical injury.

Have You Lost a Loved One in a Florida Accident?

If you have recently lost a loved one in a Florida car accident, or any other accident caused by the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida personal injury or wrongful death claim. In fact, you may have several claims, depending on the circumstances. The dedicated South Florida personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Cecere Santana have extensive experience handling all types of Florida injury claims, including those arising out of Florida car accidents. Call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Finds Golf Cart Accident Was Covered Under Plaintiff’s Insurance Policy, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 9, 2018.

Who Pays in Uber and Lyft Accidents?, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 15, 2018.