Can You Sue Someone for Emotional Distress in Florida?

A woman holding her head in her hands while experiencing emotional distress.

After being involved in a car accident or other accident that results in injuries, some people can experience emotional distress. This type of injury can be challenging to prove because there is no actual monetary value tied to it, like lost wages or property damage. As such, this often leads people to wonder if they can sue someone for emotional distress in Florida. So, if you were injured in an accident and are experiencing emotional pain and suffering, find out the answer to this question from our Tampa personal injury attorneys. 

Have you suffered a serious injury? Contact Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, now.

What Is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is a mental health condition that can be caused by various mental health disorders or exposure to highly stressful or traumatic experiences like being in a car accident or witnessing a loved one die unexpectedly. Generally, emotional distress is a temporary condition that will eventually subside. However, for some people, the condition can last much longer, sometimes even years. When it comes to personal injury lawsuits, emotional distress is also called pain and suffering

When Can You Sue for Emotional Distress?

Usually, when another’s actions cause you to experience mental distress as a result of their negligence, which also caused physical injuries and property damages, you can sue for emotional distress. Additionally, you can sue for emotional distress even when you sustained no physical injuries or property damage. However, knowing when you can sue for damages is not always clear-cut. 

To have grounds to sue, you must prove that the defendant’s actions caused your emotional distress. Furthermore, you must show any physical symptoms directly tied to your emotional distress. You can also sue for emotional distress when you were witness to a highly stressful or traumatic experience. You can even sue a family member for emotional distress in certain situations.

For example, you witnessed a loved one being injured and suffering serious injuries while you were also inside the “zone of danger” during a car accident. In addition, you can sue for emotional distress when you are the surviving family member of a victim who wrongfully dies as a result of their injuries.

What Is the “Zone of Danger?”

The “zone of danger” is the area where a defendant creates a dangerous or negligent situation that results in personal injuries, property damages, and emotional distress. Anyone inside this zone could potentially sue the defendant for emotional distress, even if they did not sustain any physical injuries or property damages.

For instance, you are a pedestrian on the sidewalk at an intersection. You witness a head-on collision where the negligent driver deliberately hits and kills someone on a motorcycle. Since you were witness to this traumatic event, you are considered inside the “zone of danger” and could potentially sue the defendant for emotional distress.

Proving Emotional Distress

The personal injury attorneys at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, in Tampa, Florida, can help you prove emotional distress. Our lawyers will handle all aspects of investigating your injury claim, including associated pain and suffering. Part of our processes of investigating the circumstances of your injury include:

  • Obtaining medical records and medical reports: With your permission, we will obtain all medical records and medical reports related to your accident and injuries.
  • Gathering witness testimonials: When witnesses were present during the accident, we will contact them and obtain official statements and testimonials to support your claim.
  • Reviewing accident reports: We will obtain police reports and accident reports and review them for vital information to support your case. 
  • Reviewing records of mental health care you received for mental anguish: If you are already seeing a mental health professional for your emotional distress, with your permission, we will review your records of care and official diagnosis, which are vital to supporting your emotional distress claim.
  • Bringing in expert witnesses who can substantiate your pain and suffering: We work with medical and mental health professionals who can further substantiate your claim of emotional distress. 
  • Reporting your official diagnosis to the court: We will report your official diagnosis to the court as part of your lawsuit against the responsible party and claim monetary compensation for your emotional distress. 

One of the most vital aspects of proving your emotional distress is that it was caused by someone else’s negligence, whether intentional or unintentional. Simply having your feelings hurt or being upset because your arm got broken, you are missing work, or your car was totaled is not enough to establish pain and suffering. 

Two important legal concepts related to suing for emotional distress, where at least one must be present, are:

  • Negligent infliction: This legal concept, called the Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED), is related to the emotional harm caused by the negligent party. Claims under NIED do not require you to have been physically injured. You could easily be a witness to a highly stressful or traumatic event or be in fear for your safety. 
  • Intentional infliction: This is another legal concept, which is called the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED). IIED claims occur when the defendant causes severe trauma, bodily harm, or emotional distress to another through outrageous, egregious, reckless, or extreme intentional behavior.

Signs You Might Be Experiencing Emotional Trauma

Some of the more common signs, symptoms, and mental health conditions associated with emotional distress are:

  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive worry
  • Sleep disturbances, nightmares, and flashbacks
  • Sleeping excessively or experiencing insomnia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • A sense of being overwhelmed
  • Difficulties concentrating, focusing, and making decisions

Damages Available for Those Who Have Suffered Emotional Distress

The damages available after experiencing emotional distress will vary from one case to another. It usually depends on how severe the emotional distress is and how it is directly related to the accident. In addition, the compensation sought can include economic and non-economic damages, which could include:

  • Loss of wages from a job when emotional distress prevents you from working
  • Mental health care costs for treating your emotional distress
  • Your physical and emotional pain and suffering
  • The overall impact the emotional distress has had on your quality of life and relationships, such as a loss of consortium
  • Potential long-term effects and impacts on your life from your emotional distress that could require ongoing treatment or prevent you from returning to work full-time

Jack Berstein, Injury Attorneys, Is Here To Help You After Suffering Emotional Distress

You do not have to suffer in silence if you have experienced emotional distress after witnessing or being involved in an accident caused by another’s negligence. In Florida, you have certain legal rights to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. 

However, you must file your claim before the statute of limitations runs out, which is typically two years. To find out what damages you could seek and obtain sound legal advice, speak to the experienced personal injury attorneys at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, in Tampa today.

Call our Tampa law firm for a free consultation today.


FLA. STAT. § 95.11(4). (2023).

Negligence Per Se in Personal Injury Lawsuits. (2023).

Non-Economic Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits. (2023).