Florida is one of the few states that still follows some variation of the “impact rule” when a plaintiff is seeking non-economic damages for emotional pain and suffering.
In general, the impact rule means that a plaintiff cannot recover for purely emotional injuries. The rule was originally adopted because judges believed it was beyond the reach of the courts to deal with compensation for injuries that occurred in the “realm of spirit land,” as the Florida Supreme Court stated in 1893.
For many years, it was accepted that there must be a physical injury before a plaintiff could bring suit for emotional damages. Over time, and after several appellate challenges to the impact rule, the Florida Supreme Court attempted to articulate a bright line rule that for a victim to recover for purely emotional injury, there must be a physical impact or, in the absence of a physical impact, the victim must allege a physical manifestation of the emotional injury.
Even with this clarification of the impact rule, exceptions continue to be found which produce seemingly inconsistent results. For example, a man who was wrongfully diagnosed with HIV for 18 months before the error was discovered could not recover any damages against the clinic; however, it is law that if your HIV tests results are illegally shared by an entity, you are entitled to recover.
There is much legal criticism of the impact rule, and Florida may eventually abolish it. Mental, emotional, and psychological trauma and injuries are more understood in today’s modern times, and are supported with medical research. Advances in the science behind these injuries may drag Florida into the 21st century in connection with its impact rule. For now, do not hesitate to contact a personal injury attorney if you have been harmed in any way- there may be an exception that applies to your situation.