Georgia’s Supreme Court Holds that Physical Injury Is Not Required in All Emotional Distress Claims

In a recent case before the Supreme Court of Georgia, the court considered whether a plaintiff could recover for emotional distress without any proof of physical injury. According to the court’s opinion, one of the plaintiffs in the case was involved in a crash with the defendant. The evidence presented at trial showed that the defendant failed to stop at a stop sign and crashed into the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff and his wife sued the defendant alleging negligence and gross negligence. They sought compensation for permanent injuries, past and future pain and suffering, loss of earnings and diminished earning capacity, and loss of consortium and loss of services.

After a jury trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs for a total of $14,550,000, including $7 million for pain and suffering, and $4 million for future pain and suffering. The jury found the husband was 25% at fault, and thus the plaintiffs were awarded the reduced amount of $10,912,500. The defendant appealed the verdict, arguing that the trial court should have given the jury an instruction on the “impact rule.”

The impact rule states that a plaintiff can recover for emotional distress only if there is some impact resulting in physical injury to the plaintiff. Under Georgia law, there are three elements to the impact rule. First, the plaintiff must have suffered some type of physical impact. Second, the physical impact must cause physical injury to the plaintiff. Third, the physical injury must cause the plaintiff’s emotional distress or mental suffering.

The Georgia Supreme Court has previously explained that without requiring proof of a physical impact, there could be a wave of litigation for emotional distress. The court noted that the rule can also help weed out frivolous claims. However, the court has stated that the impact rule does not apply to all claims of negligence, but only to claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

In this case, the plaintiffs’ complaint did not include a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Therefore, the court explained, the impact rule did not apply, and the trial court was correct in failing to give the jury an instruction on the impact rule. At trial, the court instructed the jury that the plaintiff had to prove that the defendant’s conduct was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. It further instructed the jury that the plaintiff could only recover for injuries or disabilities that were connected with the defendant’s conduct, and that any injury or disability must have been proximately caused by the incident at issue. Accordingly, the court held that the trial court properly instructed the jury on the law, and that the jury’s verdict should stand.

Have You Been Injured in an Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Georgia car accident, speak with an injury attorney as soon as possible. You may be able to recover compensation for your injuries. The injury attorneys at the McAleer Law Firm will fight to get you the compensation you deserve, including damages for lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and pain and suffering. At the McAleer Law Firm, we believe everyone should have equal access to justice. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 404-622-5337, or contact us online through our website.