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Psychological Damages


Personal Injury

Continuing with our previous discussion on ‘Personal Injuries: Bodily Harm,’ the Gainesville Attorneys, of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A., now address the topic of psychological harm. Although psychological injuries are indeed a form of bodily harm, they are best viewed as a distinct injury category, and for several reasons. First, damages of this nature are generally set forth as separate counts within your injury claim. Second, psychological injuries can vary in terms of the evidence required to prove such injury. Third, and most importantly, there are specific types of psychological damages that may be awarded depending on the type of claim, the extent of injury, the person seeking relief, the facts involved, and the application of Florida Law.

Let’s explore some examples…

Psychological Injury to Accident Victim. Psychological harm suffered directly by the accident victim, including stress, anxiety, worry, anguish, fear, anger, distress, shock, other emotional or mental trauma. Typically, this type of harm accompanies physical harm to an actual bodily part, but can also occur in the absence of such harm. This type of harm can ONLY be recovered by the actual victim affected—in other words, family member cannot be directly awarded psychological damages for the victim’s emotional trauma, however, the victim’s estate can recover such damages for suffering that occurred between the accident and the victim’s death.

Psychological Injury to Family Member [death]. Psychological harm suffered by a surviving family member, as a result of an accident resulting in the victim’s death. The relationship between the decedent and the family member is an important component in determining entitlement to damages for psychological injuries caused due to wrongful death. For example, the parents of a minor child can recover for mental suffering and emotional harm resulting from their loss, whereas, the parents of an adult child may only recover damages for such harm if there are no other survivors. A spouse can recover for loss of companionship, protection, affection, sexual relations—essentially loss of consortium and marital relationship. Minor children—or—any child, regardless of age, if there is no surviving spouse—can recover for loss of parental companionship, instruction, guidance, and mental pain and suffering.

Psychological Injury to Family Member [non-death]. Psychological harm suffered by a family member due to the victim’s injury in an accident that did not cause death. These cases typically involve a victim that suffers a catastrophic or life-altering injury (i.e. paralysis; loss of vision; traumatic brain injury; persistent vegetative state), the result of which causes psychological injury. Such claims often involve loss-of-relationship type damages similar to those recoverable in wrongful death actions. However, Florida has also recognized recovery for emotional trauma sustained by a close family member as a result of having witnessed a serious accident or injury. (i.e. innocent bystander liability).

Psychological Injury to Others. For example, where a person was within the ‘zone of danger,’ such as where a person was so close to the accident that they feared their own safety, and as a result of the threat of imminent harm or physical contact, the victim was psychologically harmed. Similarly, but conceptually different, ‘zone of risk,’ cases involve conduct of the defendant that poses a general threat of harm to others. These types of claims are far less common, and prior rulings in Florida courts have varied in their analyses, particularly in regard to the role that duty and foreseeability has on causation. However, depending on the factual circumstances and extent of injury, both zone of risk and zone of danger cases, can and have, resulted in recovery for psychological damages.

As can be seen above, accidents can produce psychological harm in many ways, and to numerous categories of individuals. Determining your entitlement to financial compensation for such damages can be highly case-specific. Regardless of the type of injury suffered, maximizing the victim’s financial recovery is our ultimate goal. Damages must be specifically requested, supported by evidence, and effectively argued. For victims, knowing the types of damages that you may be entitled to recover is the first step—let our client focused results driven Gainesville attorneys guide you.

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