In certain situations, someone can act so carelessly, that it causes you severe emotional distress. You may not actually be injured, like you would be in a car accident. However, the mental and emotional anguish you suffer is so severe, you believe you’re entitled to damages.

Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyers handle emotional distress cases. Usually, they’re included as part of a regular personal injury case. For example, if your child is injured during birth, you may have a claim for emotional distress.

There are times, however, when the emotional distress is the only aspect of the claim. Of course, these cases typically don’t involve the same kinds of damages as regular personal injury cases. You’re not going to have the same amount of medical bills for an emotional distress case as you would in a slip and fall case. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some amount of damages.

Florida does recognize negligent emotional distress as a separate injury claim. There are certain things your injury lawyer in Florida needs to prove in order for your claim to be successful:

  • The defendant has to have committed a negligent act.
  • You have to suffer emotional or mental distress – this has to be more than just a description of your distress. There has to be some physical symptom of your emotional distress.
  • You have to suffer some physical impact. This can be something as small as a pebble hitting you after an explosion. However, Florida does require some measurable impact in order to file for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
  • You witnessed a close family member suffer serious bodily injury or death as a result of the defendant’s negligence.

As you can see, it’s not easy to prove a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NEID). Your personal injury lawyer will have to submit evidence to show that you were indeed injured in some way.

You Must Prove the Defendant was Negligent

As with most personal injury cases, you still have to prove the defendant was negligent. In order to do this, your lawyer has to show four (4) things:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care
  • They breached this duty
  • You suffered emotional distress
  • This distress was caused by the defendant’s breach

Duty of Care:

Your Florida injury attorney has to prove the defendant owed you a duty of care. This will depend on the type of accident you were involved in. In a car accident, all drivers owe other people on the road a duty of care. They have to obey all traffic laws and use common sense while behind the wheel.

A lot of personal injury cases don’t involve a car accident. You could suffer emotional distress due to a slip and fall. In a slip and fall case, you have to prove that the defendant owed you a duty to keep their premises clean and safe. If you can prove they failed to keep their property safe, you may have a claim for negligence.


Your lawyer also has to prove that the defendant breached their duty of care. In the car accident example above, your lawyer must show that the driver had a traffic violation of some sort. This could involve speeding, texting and driving or DUI.

Proving breach is usually the hardest part of your case to prove. You had to show that the defendant acted in a way that most people would consider unreasonable. Your personal injury attorney in Fort Walton Beach has years of experience doing just this.

You Suffered Emotional Distress:

You have to prove that you suffered an injury – in this case, emotional distress. In Florida, you need to show some kind of proof that you suffered emotional distress. It’s not enough that you say you felt distressed. You need medical documentation that you showed symptoms of emotional distress.


You do have to show that your distress was caused by the defendant’s breach. This isn’t that hard to do. Unless you suffer some pre-existing condition, your lawyer should be able to show causation. If you go to the hospital immediately following your accident, your lawyer can show that your emotional distress immediately followed the defendant’s breach.

If your Fort Walton Beach injury attorney can prove all four of these things, you may have a valid claim for damages. The amount of your damages will depend on how bad the accident was.

Florida Follows the Impact Rule

Depending on which state you live in, there are three (3) different ways to approach negligent infliction of emotional distress. All three require that you prove the defendant was negligent. The difference is what is required to show liability.

Impact Rule: In Florida, they follow something called the “Impact Rule.” Under this rule, you have to show that something (anything) impacted your body and, thereby, caused your emotional distress. For example, if a building explodes, as long as you’re hit by a small pebble, you can technically file a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Florida is different in requiring an actual impact. In fact, they’re in the minority as most states follow either the “Zone of Danger” rule or the “Foreseeability” rule. In these other states, you don’t have to suffer an actual impact to file suit. All you have to do is show that you could have been hurt.

In line with the impact rule is the requirement that you be able to show physical symptoms of your emotional distress. This could be shown by a doctor’s report that you can’t sleep or are suffering from bouts of nausea. Or, if you’re suffering short-term memory loss as a result of the defendant’s actions, you can use this to prove emotional distress.

Your injury attorney in Florida needs to prove that you were, indeed, harmed. It’s not enough for you to testify that you believe you suffered from emotional distress.

You Can File a Claim as a Bystander

You may have a claim for damages if you witness a close family member get hurt or killed in an accident. If a defendant’s negligence resulted in your family member’s injuries, you can suffer damages. However, you have to prove that you actually witnessed the event. Or, you may be able to prove that you honestly believed your close family member had suffered serious bodily injury or death.

These cases are very difficult to prove. You have to show several things, including:

  • The defendant was negligent
  • You witnessed the accident
  • You saw (or believed) your close family member was seriously injured or killed
  • You suffered emotional distress
  • The distress was caused by the defendant’s negligence

Your Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer will have to weigh your case carefully before they file a claim. These cases can be difficult to prove. You need to demonstrate that you were, indeed, injured. You’ll need medical records proving that you suffered emotional distress.

It’s also hard to estimate damages in these cases.

What Kind of Damages are Involved in a Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Case?

It can be very difficult to prove damages in a NEID case. Just because you suffered emotional distress doesn’t automatically entitle you to compensation. You have to show that your emotional distress cost you in some way.

Your Fort Walton Beach personal injury attorney may demand the following damages:

  • Medical bills – If you had to see a doctor or get treated for your emotional distress, you can demand compensation. This will be equal to your current medical bills and any future medical treatment you may need.
  • Pain and Suffering – You may be able to prove pain and suffering. Your lawyer will have to determine what kind of evidence they can use to prove these damages. There’s no guarantee that a jury will award you pain and suffering. It depends on the seriousness of your case.

If you suffered damages, you can file a claim against the defendant’s insurance. In most personal injury cases, this is how you’re paid. Your attorney files a claim against the insurance company. They either negotiate a settlement with the insurance adjuster or file suit.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

If you’ve suffered emotional distress due to the negligence of another, you need to call an experienced personal injury attorney in Fort Walton Beach. Your attorney can review your case and let you know what it may be worth. They can also answer any questions you may have.

Call today and schedule your initial consultation. It’s absolutely free and you pay nothing until you settle your case. The defendant will have lawyers working for them and you should too.


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