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Impact Rule

How Georgia’s Impact Rule Works in Atlanta Personal Injury Cases

For people who want to file claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress, the Impact Rule in Georgia law requiring physical injury can be confusing. If someone else’s actions caused you mental suffering, the Impact Rule can affect your eligibility to recover compensation.

The Impact Rule states: “In a claim concerning negligent conduct, a recovery for emotional distress is allowed only where there is some impact on the plaintiff, and that impact must be a physical injury.”  Lee v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co. et al., 272 Ga. 583, 584 (2000).

Here, we look at the Impact Rule and how it works. If you want to claim compensation for personal injury, our lawyers at The Angell Law Firm can provide you with the legal representation and advice you need. Call us today with questions or to schedule a consultation.

Personal Injury Cases in Atlanta

During a personal injury case, the victim, or plaintiff, takes legal action against the defendant who committed the wrongful act. The plaintiff’s goal is to seek compensation for their damages. To be successful with their personal injury cases, the plaintiff needs to prove that:

  1. The defendant had a legal obligation to take reasonable care
  2. The defendant neglected this duty of care
  3. The plaintiff suffered damages
  4. The plaintiff’s damages were due to the defendant’s negligence

Let’s look at these elements in practice using a car accident as an example:

Driver A (the defendant) runs a red light and collides with Driver B, who is busy crossing the intersection. Driver B sustains vehicle damage and a personal injury that requires medical attention.

In this case, Driver A had a duty to follow the rules of the road. However, A breached this duty, and B suffered an injury and vehicle damage because of this breach. Driver B will be able to claim compensation from A for their damages.

Personal Injury Damages

Under Georgia personal injury law, you can claim compensation for various damages:

  • Medical expenses due to physical injuries
  • Lost wages resulting from a disability or inability to work
  • Costs to repair or replace damaged property
  • Pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages

In some cases, you might be able to claim compensation for emotional distress. Here, Georgia’s Impact Rule comes in.

Damages for Emotional Distress: The Impact Rule in Georgia

Emotional distress is the mental anguish a person experiences after a traumatic experience. Typical forms of psychological injuries after car accidents, assault, dog attacks, and other events include:

  • Chronic anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irrational fears
  • Shame or humiliation
  • Guilt

Under the Georgia Impact Rule, a plaintiff can only claim compensation for emotional distress if:

  • The plaintiff suffered a physical impact during the event
  • The physical impact caused physical injury to the plaintiff
  • The plaintiff’s physical injury caused emotional distress

According to this rule, only a person who suffered a physical injury can claim compensation for emotional distress.

For example, suppose Person A sees their spouse B sustains catastrophic injuries during a dog attack. Consequently, both A and B experience anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

However, under the impact law, only B can claim compensation for emotional distress from the dog’s owner. This is because B is the only one who sustained a physical injury during the event.

Many people argue that expanding the rule is necessary to protect family members who witness horrific accidents. The Impact Rule does have one exception regarding a parent’s distress at witnessing the suffering and death of their child even if the parent does not sustain physical injuries.

Oliver v. McDade: The Pecuniary Loss Rule

The case of Oliver v. McDade, 328 Ga. App. 368 (2014) demonstrates the Impact Rule in Georgia law.

In this case, the plaintiff (McDade) and his friend (Wood) stopped their truck on the side of the road to investigate a problem with their trailer. After Wood exited the truck, a tractor-trailer came by and struck him, killing him instantly.

The trailer-tractor also collided with the truck, injuring McDade. Wood’s blood and skin tissue landed on McDade, traumatizing him, causing anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and suicidal thoughts.

The court ruled that, according to the pecuniary loss rule, McDade could claim compensation for emotional distress. Under this rule, a plaintiff can recover compensation if their emotional distress results in medical expenses. In this case, McDade sought medical treatment for depression.

Claims for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: Available Compensation

Do you want to file a compensation claim against someone else? The amount you can claim depends on various factors, including the types of damages you suffered and your economic losses.

Calculating compensation for pain and suffering is more complex, as these damages don’t have a monetary value. However, there is no monetary cap on pain and suffering compensation claims under Georgia personal injury law.

At The Angell Law Firm, we can help you determine the appropriate compensation amount for physical and emotional suffering. We will also present the facts to the court or insurance company to demonstrate why the amount you claim is fair.

The Impact Rule in Georgia Law: Why Does it Exist?

Georgia law applies the Impact Rule because emotional injuries are too difficult to calculate. The rule also prevents fraudulent claims.

Catastrophic accidents tend to attract bystanders. By implementing the Impact Rule, Georgia law prevents the general public who witnessed an accident from claiming compensation from the defendant for emotional distress.

When Should I Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Navigating the personal injury claims process can be challenging. Consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the event. We can help you make calculated decisions throughout the process. If you are eligible to claim compensation for emotional distress, we can present evidence to demonstrate:

  • The onset and duration of your mental anguish
  • The intensity of your psychological injury
  • Any physical symptoms resulting from your emotional distress
  • The primary cause of your mental distress

We will also ensure that you have medical documentation to support your claim.

Partner With Reputable Personal Injury Attorneys

To learn more about the Impact Rule in Georgia law and its effect on your case, get in touch with our law team at The Angell Law Firm. Our service areas include offices in:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Toccoa, GA
  • Greenville, SC
  • Charleston, SC
  • Destin, FL

Call us today at (770) 217-4954 to schedule a consultation and a free case evaluation.

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