Emotional Distress

Whether the result of a car crash, a serious accident, or the egregiously wrongful conduct of another party, dealing with emotional distress is never easy. The trauma associated with emotional distress can lead to anxiety, sleepless nights, a major depressive episode, and even physical illness. This raises an important question: Can you sue for emotional distress? In Florida, the answer is “yes”—but these claims are especially complicated, and there are specific things that you will need to prove to recover compensation. Here, our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer provides an overview of the key things to know about suing for emotional distress in Florida.

What is Emotional Distress?

The Legal Information Institute defines emotional distress broadly as “mental suffering as an emotional response to an experience that arises from the effect or memory of a particular event, occurrence, pattern of events or condition.” Notably, from both a legal perspective and a medical/mental health perspective, emotional distress can be distinguished from some of its most common symptoms, such as stress, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, and depression.


Types of Emotional Distress Claims

In Florida, emotional distress claims are divided into two broad categories:

  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED): Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is a tort claim that involves intentional acts that cause severe emotional distress to the victim. This type of claim requires proof of deliberate extreme and outrageous behavior by the defendant, actual suffering of severe emotional distress by the victim, and a causal connection between the conduct and the victim's distress.
  • Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED): Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED) is a tort claim that involves causing emotional distress to someone through gross negligence. In NIED cases, the defendant is held liable for failing to exercise reasonable care and causing emotional distress to the victim because of their extreme recklessness. Unlike an IIED claim, NIED does not require proof of intentional conduct by the defendant.

Examples of Infliction of Emotional Distress

The infliction of severe emotional distress on a victim can happen in a wide range of different circumstances. Some notable examples of conduct that could potentially give rise to an intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress claim in Florida include:

  • A Serious Accident: When someone is involved in an accident or situation that causes the death or injury of a loved one, they may suffer severe emotional distress and be able to bring a NIED claim if the defendant was grossly negligent in causing the harm.
  • Intentional Physical Harm (Assault): Inflicting physical harm or threatening physical harm to someone can cause severe emotional distress, and it may be legally actionable in the form of an IIED claim done with intent.
  • False Imprisonment: Confining someone against their will or threatening to do so can be considered IIED.
  • Invasion of Privacy: In some cases, unlawful intrusion into someone's private affairs, such as illegally intercepting their communications or taking photos of them, can be considered IIED.
  • Racial, Gender, or Other Discrimination: Discrimination in the workplace or elsewhere can cause emotional distress that could sometimes be actionable on IIED or NIED grounds.
  • Other Traumatic Events: Surviving a traumatic event may give rise to an infliction of emotional distress claim. As an example, a person who was sexually assaulted by a professor on a college campus may have a claim against both the perpetrator and the institution.

What You Need To Prove When Suing for Emotional Distress in Florida

Are you considering suing for emotional distress? It is imperative that you have a comprehensive understanding of the law. The standard of what you need to prove when suing for negligent infliction of emotional distress or intentional infliction of emotional distress in Florida is well-articulated in the 1985 Supreme Court of Florida case of Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. McCarson. You should be prepared to prove the following four key elements of an emotional distress claim:

  • Deliberate or Reckless (Grossly Negligent) Conduct By Defendant: When suing for emotional distress in Florida, you must prove that the defendant acted deliberately or recklessly in causing your distress. This means that they knew, or should have known, that their actions were likely to cause emotional distress and chose to engage in that behavior anyway. Proving negligence is generally not sufficient. You need to prove gross negligence.
  • Outrageous Behavior on the Part of Defendant: To succeed in an emotional distress lawsuit, you must also prove that the defendant's behavior was outrageous. Outrageous behavior is defined as conduct that is extreme and goes beyond all bounds of decency and is considered to be intolerable in a civilized society.
  • Causation Between Defendant Conduct and Your Emotional Distress: You must also prove that there is a direct causal relationship between the defendant's conduct and your emotional distress. This means that you must show that your distress was the direct result of the defendant's actions and that it would not have occurred but for their conduct.
  • Actual Suffering of Severe Emotional Distress: Finally, you must prove that you have actually suffered from severe emotional distress as a result of the defendant's conduct. Victims must demonstrate that their emotional distress is more than just minor upset or inconvenience and that it has had a significant impact on their life. Medical and psychological evidence can be used to support your claim of severe emotional distress.

How to File an Emotional Distress Lawsuit in Florida 

Are you considering filing an emotional distress lawsuit in Florida? These are complex legal cases. It is imperative that you take a proactive approach that is designed to protect your rights, your well-being, and your best interests. Here are four key steps to take when filing an intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress claim in Florida:

  • Seek Professional Medical and Psychological Care: The first step in filing an emotional distress lawsuit in Florida is to seek professional medical and psychological care. This will help to document the extent and nature of your emotional distress and provide evidence of the impact it has had on your life. Additionally, seeking professional care can help you to manage your emotional distress and improve your overall well-being.
  • Document Your Emotional Distress and Its Impact on Your Life: It is essential to keep a record of your emotional distress and its impact on your life. This may include journal entries, medical records, and statements from friends and family members who have witnessed your distress. This documentation can be used as evidence in your emotional distress lawsuit. Remember, you must prove the severity of the effects of the distress.
  • Gather and Organize Evidence of Defendant’s Liability: To prove your emotional distress lawsuit, you will need to gather and organize evidence of the defendant's liability. This may include witness statements, emails, and other forms of communication that demonstrate the defendant's responsibility for causing your distress. IIED and NIED claims are highly fact-specific legal cases. A thorough investigation of the incident is a must.
  • Consult With a Fort Lauderdale Emotional Distress Lawyer: Navigating the legal claims process alone is an incredible burden to take on—especially when you are already dealing with severe mental and emotional trauma. An experienced attorney can help you to understand your rights and responsibilities and guide you through the legal process of filing an emotional distress lawsuit in Florida.

The Warning Signs of Emotional Distress

If you are dealing with mental health issues, including emotional distress, you are not alone. According to data cited by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 20% of U.S. adults are dealing with some form of serious mental health disorder. How do you know that it is time to seek professional help? Here are some of the most common warning signs that suggest a person is dealing with significant emotional distress:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or irritability;
  • Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable;
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns;
  • Fatigue or low energy levels;
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions;
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness;
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm;
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches;
  • Substance abuse or excessive alcohol consumption;
  • Social withdrawal or isolation from friends and family; and
  • Unexplained tears or crying spells.
It is vital to emphasize that every situation is different. You could be experiencing several (or all) of these symptoms to varying degrees. That you or your loved one is not dealing with a specific symptom does not mean that you do not have severe emotional distress. Getting the right mental health treatment is a must. Indeed, Early intervention and treatment can greatly improve one's quality of life and ability to manage emotional distress.

To learn more, schedule a free consultation with us today.

How Do You Quantify Emotional Distress Damages?

Quantifying emotional distress damages in tort claims can be a challenging task. The amount of compensation awarded for emotional distress varies widely and depends on several factors. For example, one key factor is the severity of emotional distress. Factors that may be considered in determining the severity of emotional distress include the duration of the distress, the intensity of the distress, and the impact on the individual's daily life and relationships. Through an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim or a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, victims in Florida can seek compensation for both economic and intangible damages. You may recover for medical bills, mental health support, lost wages, emotional trauma, and loss of life enjoyment. Under Florida law (Florida Statutes § 768.72), punitive damages may also be available in a limited number of especially severe IIED or NIED claims.

How Difficult is Suing for Emotional Distress?

It can be difficult—which is why it is so important to retain a top-rated Florida emotional distress lawyer as early as possible in the claims process. As noted previously, the victim should be prepared to prove that the defendant acted deliberately or with gross recklessness, that their behavior was especially outrageous, and that severe mental trauma was suffered as a result. Unfortunately, the defendant and insurers are aggressive. Even though the victim and their family have already endured so much trauma, they fight hard to protect their own best interests—either denying liability altogether or trying to settle for penalties on the dollar. Protect yourself by consulting with a Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer right away.

Get Help From a Fort Lauderdale Emotional Distress Lawyer Today

Emotional distress claims are notoriously complex. You need a skilled, experienced, and dedicated professional on your side. At Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss, LLC, our firm is committed to delivering real justice and the best results for our clients and their families. We have the skills and experience needed to handle negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. Our Florida emotional distress lawyers are compassionate, experienced, and justice-driven advocates for people and families. If you or your loved one suffered serious emotional distress, we are here to help you determine the best course of action. Contact us today for a free, strictly confidential consultation. With offices in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, and Stuart, we handle emotional distress claims throughout Florida.