While many states have abolished the “impact rule,” Florida still adheres to it. Personal injuries are known as torts. A tort is a wrongful act or infringement of an individual’s right that can be redressed by awarding damages. Injured parties are entitled to all damages that naturally and directly flow from the wrongful act of another. For example, if a driver is excessively speeding and carelessly hits a pedestrian, that driver will be liable for all the damages that naturally arose out of that accident, including the pedestrian’s personal injuries, property damage, lost income, and more.
Under Florida law, however, there is a special rule when it comes to emotional distress and mental anguish. The impact rule stems from the common law requirement that physical contact must take place in order to allow damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Put another way, the impact rule requires that a victim sustain some physical impact, even if it is minimal, in order to recover for any type of mental distress. The rationale behind this rule is that a mental injury can be easy to fake, so requiring a physical impact would limit an individual’s ability to make false claims about mental distress.
It is important to note that there are certain exceptions to the rule. A plaintiff can, in certain instances, show physical injury even though he or she did not suffer impact. Fainting at the sight of your child’s injuries could be sufficient to show impact. Any other physical harm that accompanied the mental anguish (including harm related to or caused by it) could allow a plaintiff to take legal action under this exception.