Maritime Injury: Claims for Purely Emotional Injuries and the Physical Impact Rule

An often overlooked component and independent cause of action in maritime injury claims is infliction of emotional distress. If you have been involved in accident and sustained psychological injury such as substantial distress, anxiety, grief, depression, insomnia, or other psychological symptoms without soft tissue or orthopedic injury, you or maritime employees who witnessed the event may still be entitled to damages for emotional distress – but certain conditions have to be met.

To qualify for compensation for emotional distress, the claimant must satisfy the “physical injury or impact rule.” The purpose of the rules is to separate manufactured claims from legitimate psychological injury and discourage the filing of meretricious lawsuits. The rule requires that the claimant suffer some physical injury in conjunction with the psychological injury. This does not mean that the claimant was physically injured in the traditional sense. It requires physical representation of the psychological injury.

The type of physical injury or impact that satisfies the standard is murky, but recent decisions shed some light on what may qualify. Transitory, non-recurring physical phenomenon such as dizziness, vomiting, and the like do not qualify as physical injury. But recurring physical symptoms of the same nature may. It is also likely that continuous physical manifestations of psychological trauma such as insomnia and trauma induced physical affects like fidgeting and twitching would too. In short: the physical impact test requires emotional or psychological injury so severe that it physically manifests in the claimant.

Properly pleading purely psychological injury claims is extremely important since physical impact of the psychological injury is just as important as the circumstances of the event.

While the standards governing purely emotional claims for maritime injuries is still unclear, if you have been physically impacted by psychological injury, you may be entitled to file an emotional distress claim for your psychological injury.

Maritime law is complex. If you or a loved has been seriously injured or killed while working offshore, find an attorney experienced and proven in handling maritime claims. Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner is the oldest personal injury firm in Texas and our attorneys have handled many maritime injury claims. Contact us today by calling 713-396-3964 or toll free at 800-594-4884“>1-800-594-4884.