Stephen R. Hasner
Managing Partner at Hasner Law PC
March 27, 2023

Accident victims often include emotional distress as part of their damages when filing a personal injury lawsuit. Georgia laws allow accident victims to recover compensation for emotional distress. However, victims must prove the elements of the Impact Rule to recover compensation for emotional distress.

What Is Emotional Distress in a Personal Injury Case?

Emotional distress is the mental suffering and emotional anguish caused by a specific event or memory of that event. 

It can include but is not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Interrupted sleep or eating patterns
  • Humiliation and embarrassment 
  • Persistent and uncontrollable crying
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Distress regarding a disability or impairment
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Psychological trauma
  • Nightmares and night terrors
  • Overwhelming panic attacks

Negligent infliction of emotional distress is caused by another person’s reckless or careless acts. For example, causing a car accident due to speeding, distracted driving, or drunk driving could be the basis of negligent infliction of emotional distress. 

Negligent infliction of emotional distress may also arise in other personal injury cases. Examples include medical malpractice, slips and falls, product liability claims, dog bites, and nursing home abuse.

How Does the Impact Rule Affect Compensation for Emotional Distress in Georgia?

Some states allow accident victims to receive compensation for emotional distress without proving a physical injury. However, Georgia does not. Georgia still uses the Impact Rule to determine whether a victim can recover compensation for the negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The Impact Rule requires an accident victim to prove:

  • The victim sustained a physical impact due to the at-fault party’s conduct;
  • The physical impact caused bodily injury; and
  • The physical injury caused the person’s emotional distress.

Without a physical injury, the person cannot recover compensation for emotional distress. This situation often arises when someone is involved in an accident or witnesses an accident causing a loved one’s injury or death. The person claims that the incident caused them to experience mental anguish and emotional distress.

The court might acknowledge that the victim experienced emotional distress because of the incident. However, if the victim cannot prove a physical injury, they are not entitled to compensation for their emotional distress.

Courts have consistently ruled that the Impact Rule is necessary to prevent frivolous litigation. There could be an enormous surge of cases alleging emotional stress with no underlying physical impact without the Impact Rule. 

Without some type of physical impact, it could be challenging to prove causation between the at-fault party’s negligent conduct and the injured party’s claim of emotional distress.

How Much Is My Claim for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Worth?

If another person causes an injury, that person can be held liable for various economic damages. 

Economic damages in a personal injury case include but are not limited to:

  • Loss of income and benefits
  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Diminished earning potential
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Cost of physical, occupational, and other therapies
  • Medications and medical equipment
  • Cost of long-term care

The court may also award compensation for non-economic damages or pain and suffering damages, including emotional distress and mental anguish. They also include physical pain and suffering and permanent impairments. 

Placing a price on pain and suffering damages is difficult. There is no statutory formula for calculating the value of emotional distress. Therefore, many courts use the multiplier method to determine how much a person’s emotional distress and other non-economic damages are worth.

Using this method, the value of your non-economic damages, including emotional distress, equals your economic damages multiplied by a number between 1.5 and five. The multiplier depends on the facts of your case. Severe injuries and permanent disabilities increase the value of the multiplier.

How Can You Improve Your Chance of Recovering Compensation for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress?

Seek prompt medical treatment for your injuries. Documenting physical injuries is essential after an accident because of the Impact Rule. 

Begin a pain and suffering journal detailing your recovery after the accident. Make notes about the pain you experience due to physical injuries. Also, note activities you cannot perform and events you miss because of your injuries. 

Additionally, keep detailed notes about how the accident and your injuries impact your emotional health. For example, do you suffer from anxiety attacks or chronic depression after the accident? Do you suffer from nightmares?

The more details you provide regarding the impact of the physical injuries on your daily life, the better your chance of recovering maximum compensation. A Savannah personal injury lawyer can help you gather evidence to prove you are entitled to compensation for emotional distress and other damages.

Author Stephen Headshot
Managing Partner at Hasner Law PC
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Stephen Hasner is the founder and managing partner of Hasner Law PC. Since being licensed in Florida in 1997 and in Georgia in 1999, Stephen has worked tirelessly to help Georgia residents navigate the legal process following a serious injury. This includes injuries sustained at work, in motor vehicle accidents, and in cases of personal injury. The team at Hasner Law is dedicated to securing compensation for their clients who have been injured through no fault of their own.