What is the Impact Rule?

Can Witnessing a Horrible Incident be the Basis for a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Imagine you are almost involved in a horrific pedestrian accident that occurs when you are crossing a street, with the pedestrian signal indicating it is safe to proceed across the busy intersection, when a car going at least twice the speed limit blows through a red light. The car comes within inches of hitting you before slamming into a car going the other way and causing serious injuries to its occupants. Although you miraculously survive this incident without suffering a scratch, the near miss causes you to have trouble sleeping for months given you witnessed someone else suffering serious injuries and very nearly sustained them yourself, only avoiding serious harm by a matter of inches. However, if your emotional pain and suffering from this near-miss does cause you some sort of demonstrable physical injury, such as heart palpitations or ulcers, or serve as the direct cause of some sort of physical injury, then you may have your personal injury claims against the driver that almost hit you barred by something known as: the impact rule. 

Most states have done away with the impact rule, but Florida still retains it, although over time Florida courts have allowed a number of exceptions to the impact. However, clever defense attorneys will often try to convince a court that your personal injury claim should be barred by the impact rule, even where this is not the case. This is one reason you need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney like the Florida personal injury attorneys at Schwed Adams & McGinley if you are a victim of this type of near miss. Our attorneys will ensure that clever defense attorneys do not minimize your emotional pain and suffering by misapplying the impact rule and we will help you to obtain the compensation you are entitled to under Florida law. 

What is The Impact Rule?

Florida is one of only a handful of states that have the impact rule. According to the impact rule, plaintiffs who are seeking financial compensation for non-economic damages (namely, emotional distress or pain and suffering) are required to prove they also experienced some physical impact or manifestation from the emotional injuries that somehow physically impacted the person. Therefore, in the example above, if your emotional distress from the accident in which you were almost involved did not cause you any sort of physical injury or distress, such as an ulcer, heart issues, or some other form of tangible physical injury to some part of your body, then the impact rule would bar you from recovering against the driver that almost hit you, unless you fit within one of the exceptions to the impact rule.

Exceptions to the Impact Rule

Like any rule, there are exceptions to Florida’s impact rule. Florida law recognizes that some situations are or can be so traumatic in and of themselves that someone should be able to recover for purely emotionally suffering even if the person does not have accompanying physical symptoms or injuries. Witnessing injury to or death of a loved one is perhaps the most common exception. In the example above, if your spouse or another loved one was walking next to you, but was either injured or killed by the car that ran the red light and barely missed you, then this would likely be an incredibly traumatic incident for you and you would be able to seek compensation from the driver that ran the red light, even if you did not exhibit a physical injury caused by your grief or your emotional pain and suffering as a result of watching your loved one be killed. Another exception would be if a psychologist or therapist breaches a trusted relationship with a patient and, for example, tells the patient’s hated boss how the patient actually feels about that boss, resulting in the patient being fired and suffering a nervous breakdown. In that scenario, the patient would absolutely be able to pursue a claim against the therapist or psychologist for the emotional consequences of the breach of that trusted relationship by the therapist because the patient-therapist relationship of trust is so absolute. 

Contact Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A.

At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A., our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined legal practice representing victims of motor vehicle or pedestrian accidents, slip and fall incidents and other personal injury scenarios in Florida. We are well-versed in situations in which the impact rule may be used by defense attorneys as a way to seek to prevent you from obtaining the compensation you are entitled to under Florida law. The impact rule’s exceptions are very poorly understood by defense attorneys and we know the exceptions and how to make our client’s situation fit into one of those exceptions very well. If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence in an incident at an airport, regardless of how you were injured or whose negligence caused the situation, then you have the right under Florida law to receive compensation for your injuries, regardless of whether those injuries were emotional or physical. Therefore, if you, a family member, or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall incident or any other situation caused by someone else’s negligence in Florida, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A today at 877-694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation.