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Claimants Must Show Actual Injury in Mississippi Maritime Accident


In a March 21, 2018 opinion, a court upheld an important precedent established by the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit regarding what an accident victim can recover for emotional distress. In re TK Boat Rentals involved a maritime accident, where a fishing charter boat carrying several passengers collided with another vessel. Six passengers filed claims for personal injuries and emotional distress. Both boating companies moved to dismiss the claims of two of the plaintiff on the grounds that they did not allege any physical injuries; these claimants only asserted that they suffered emotional distress for being within the “zone of danger.” The court found in favor of the boating companies and dismissed the cases of these two passengers.

Because this rule applies to personal injury claims, car crashes, and maritime accidents in Mississippi, it is important to understand the reasoning behind the court’s decision.

Claims Based Upon Emotional Distress 

When you are hurt in an accident based upon negligence, you may be entitled to recover both economic and non-economic damages. The first type covers your out-of-pocket and similar losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages are not as concrete, but are still available where you can establish that you experienced pain and suffering, losses based upon your personal relationships, and emotional distress.

However, if you do not claim any physical bodily injuries, you must have some specific, material proof to seek compensation for mental suffering. For instance, there must be evidence demonstrating that you were diagnosed and treated for depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, neurotic episodes, or other conditions constituting emotional distress. Evidence to support your claim might include:

  • Medical records;
  • Diagnosis and procedure codes;
  • Prescriptions you received to alleviate your condition;
  • Physician’s notes; and,
  • Similar materials.

Zone of Danger Rule 

After claiming emotional harm and showing that you actually suffered distress-based injuries in an accident, you must still demonstrate that you were within the “zone of danger” to recover compensation. This rule requires you to show that you were a witness in such close proximity to the actual accident that you felt you would also suffer physical harm due to the responsible party’s negligence.

Decision in TK Boat Rentals 

The reason the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals  dismissed the cases of the two passengers was because those two passengers did not allege any type of emotional injuries. Neither claimed that they visited a physician, requested prescriptions to help them sleep, sought treatment for mental conditions, or otherwise were affected by the maritime accident. In fact, they did not even include non-medical evidence that they endured distress.  Without evidence of testimony of these emotional injuries, it was not even necessary for the court to get to the issue of whether these two passengers were within the zone of danger.  Thus, their claims were dismissed.

Trust a Biloxi, MS Maritime Accident Lawyer with Your Claim

The recent TK Boat Rentals case is important because it restates Mississippi law on emotional distress claims. It also serves as a reminder that it is critical to retain an experienced, knowledgeable attorney to represent you in seeking compensation for your losses. If you were hurt in maritime accident or any other personal injury incident, please contact the Law Offices of Judy Guice in Biloxi, MS to schedule a free consultation. We can tell you more about your right to compensation for physical injuries, emotional distress, and other losses.


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Biloxi, Mississippi 39530

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