Most people are familiar with the general purpose of a personal injury lawsuit – they allow victims harmed by the negligence of others to seek financial compensation for their resulting damages. While every accident is different, many have the potential to cause more than just physical injuries and economic losses. They can also result in various “non-economic” damages, which include things like a victim’s pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other emotional injuries which may be less “tangible” and more difficult to equate into monetary sums than easily calculable damages like medical bills or lost income.
While non-economic damages are recoverable in personal injury cases, Florida has a unique, and somewhat controversial, law that can make recovering such damages more difficult for victims in the Sunshine State than in most states across the country. This law is known as the “impact rule.”
What is the Impact Rule in Florida?
Florida’s impact rule was created with the intention to restrain and limit “frivolous lawsuits.” While there may be arguments about the rhetoric behind that intention, the rule was favored by proponents whose general argument was that victims can’t experience emotional harm if they didn’t actually experience physical injury.
That point of view may certainly be arguable, and it may sometimes be valid in barring lawsuits which solely seek non-economic damages for unreasonable circumstances. However, for all intents and purposes, the impact rule does apply to Florida personal injury cases, and it is an element that must be satisfied if victims are to have any potential grounds for their claims. For example, if you have been involved in a car accident, there must be reasonable evidence that you suffered some type of physical injury or harm in the accident in order to recover compensation for your non-economic damages. But what about other unique circumstances?
Exceptions to the Rule
As with many things in law, there are exceptions to the impact rule designed to account for circumstances where it wouldn’t be prudent to bar victims from recovering non-economic damages. For example, victims may be able to recover compensation for non-economic damages (solely or in addition to economic damages) when:
- Victims directly witness the serious injury or death of a loved one in a preventable accident
- Victims inhale asbestos or other harmful substances which result in illnesses
- Victims ingest a harmful or foreign object, including ingestion due to a defective product
- A victim’s HIV positive diagnosis was released negligently to others
- A victim’s psychologist breached their duty of care and fiduciary duty
Over the years, Florida’s highest courts have heard many cases regarding the impact rule, but their decisions have been narrow and clearly intended to ensure the rights of only those who suffer significant emotional harm. Still, the impact rule continues to be a source of much debate.
Why the Impact Rule Matters in Personal Injury Cases?
Florida’s impact rule may have many implications in various types of civil cases, but for personal injury cases it generally means victims must have suffered some type of actual physical harm in order to seek a recovery of their non-economic damages, unless they were someone who directly witnessed a close family member suffer a serious injury or death, and experienced mental anguish, grief, loss of emotional support, and other non-economic damages as a result, or fit within other injury-related exceptions.
Because it is not enough to say you suffered physical injury and non-economic damages in an accident, even though you very well may have, the impact rule stands as a reminder about the importance of proving your injuries. This can be done with the help of an experienced lawyer, as well as your own proactiveness, by:
- Seeking medical attention as soon as possible after an accident
- Following up with your doctor and listening to their medical recommendations for treatment
- Preserving medical records about your injuries and treatment
- Documenting your injuries, including photos of any visible injuries or details about your symptoms
- Working with experienced attorneys and medical experts who can speak to the nature of your injuries, whether they are ostensibly visible or not
Taking these steps can be important to limiting the ability of defendants and insurance companies that may argue you were not really injured in a crash, and therefore not entitled to a recovery of your damages. It can also support you as you seek compensation for both your economic and non-economic losses.
Questions? Todd Miner Law is Here to Help.
Todd Miner Law is a nationally recognized personal injury law firm that fights for victims and families throughout Orlando and the state of Florida. With the insight of Attorney Todd Miner, a former Florida prosecutor and insurance defense lawyer, our legal team has the resources to help clients protect their rights in even the most challenging and contested cases. Over the years, we’ve recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients and are prepared to fight for you.
Discuss your potential case personally with a member of our firm by calling 407-894-1480 or contacting us online. Consultations are free and confidential.