March 11, 2024
personal injury

Experiencing a personal injury accident, such as a car crash, can be a traumatizing event that leaves long-lasting effects beyond physical injuries. This trauma can manifest as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a diagnosable condition characterized by severe anxiety, flashbacks, and continuous stress after the event.

The impact of PTSD can affect your daily life, making daily functioning difficult. An Alabama personal injury attorney from The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers can include PTSD as part of your personal injury claim to compensate you for the damage the condition has on your quality of life. Read on to learn more about PTSD and how it can affect a personal injury claim.

Introduction to PTSD in Personal Injury Claims

PTSD occurs in a high number of personal injury victims, specifically in serious vehicle crashes. One study found that the prevalence of PTSD in crash survivors ranged from 6.3% to 58.3%. While you can include PTSD as part of your personal injury claim, it must meet certain criteria to qualify for compensation. These requirements include the following:

  • Diagnosable Condition: A qualified mental health professional must diagnose you with PTSD based on DSM-5 criteria, which include persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event, avoidance of trauma reminders, negative thoughts and mood, and heightened reactivity.
  • Direct Link to the Incident: Evidence must clearly link PTSD to the traumatic event of a personal injury claim, supported by medical records and expert opinions, to prove that the incident resulted in the psychological condition.
  • Severity and Duration of Symptoms: The PTSD symptoms must impair your daily life and persist for a considerable time after the incident, documented through continuous medical treatment and assessments.

Types of Incidents Likely to Qualify for PTSD Claims

In civil court, a wide range of accidents can qualify for claims involving post-traumatic stress disorder. This compensates you for damages beyond physical injuries. Common types of accidents that might lead to a PTSD claim include:

  • Car Accidents: Severe car crashes can lead to PTSD, especially in cases involving serious injuries, fatalities, or particularly traumatic circumstances. PTSD symptoms were self-reported by 42% of victims 8 weeks post-accident, with an overall prevalence of 30.3% to 49.2% in a 2021 study.
  • Workplace Accidents: Individuals who suffer traumatic experiences in the workplace, such as industrial accidents, exposure to dangerous conditions, or violent incidents, may develop PTSD as a result.
  • Medical Malpractice: Patients who experience traumatic medical procedures, severe complications, or life-threatening mistakes during medical care might suffer from PTSD.
  • Slip and Falls: While often considered less severe, slip and fall accidents in particularly traumatic circumstances can also lead to PTSD, especially if they result in serious injuries like a spinal injury or a traumatic brain injury.
  • Product Liability: Individuals injured by defective or dangerous products, especially in cases where the incident is sudden and traumatic, may claim PTSD in their lawsuits.
  • Motorcycle Accidents: The high risk of severe injury or death in motorcycle crashes can result in PTSD for riders and bystanders.
  • Pedestrian Accidents: Pedestrians involved in accidents, especially those hit by vehicles or involved in severe collisions, can suffer from PTSD due to the traumatic nature of the incident.

Proving PTSD

PTSD is a psychological condition, which means it can be harder to prove than tangible damages like physical injuries and lost wages. Alabama courts demand substantial evidence to demonstrate PTSD as part of a damage claim, which typically includes:

  • Medical Documentation: This should consist of detailed records from psychiatrists, psychologists, or other mental health professionals who have diagnosed the individual with PTSD. These documents should outline the condition’s severity and effect on the victim’s daily life.
  • Expert Testimony: Mental health experts may be called upon to testify about the PTSD diagnosis, its causation, and prognosis. Their expertise can help the court understand the nature of PTSD and its relevance to the specific case.
  • Corroboration of the Traumatic Event: Substantiating the occurrence of the traumatic event is crucial. This may involve police reports, eyewitness accounts, and physical evidence that directly connects PTSD to the incident for which the defendant is responsible.
  • Consideration of Pre-Existing Mental Health Conditions: You must distinguish the effects of the traumatic event from any pre-existing mental health conditions. This involves presenting evidence, such as medical records or expert evaluations, that demonstrates how the incident either worsened or directly led to the onset of PTSD, regardless of any previous mental health diagnoses.
  • Timeliness of Symptoms: Demonstrating the presence of PTSD can be complicated by the delayed onset of symptoms. In cases like car accidents, up to 25% of individuals may not exhibit full PTSD symptoms until six months or more post-incident. This necessitates a meticulous evaluation over an extended period, sometimes up to 24 months, to diagnose and link PTSD to the event.

Recoverable Damages for PTSD in Personal Injury Claims

In successful PTSD claims, victims may recover a range of damages that compensate for the tangible and intangible losses they have suffered due to their condition. These damages can include:

  • Medical Expenses: This includes costs for past, present, and future medical treatment related to PTSD, such as hospital stays, medications, therapy sessions with psychologists or psychiatrists, and any other mental health services required to manage the symptoms of PTSD.
  • Lost Wages: Compensation for lost wages covers the income you lose due to your inability to work as a result of your PTSD. This can also extend to loss of earning capacity if PTSD symptoms affect your ability to work in the future.
  • Pain and Suffering: This is compensation for the physical and emotional distress caused by PTSD, including anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and the loss of enjoyment in life. Pain and suffering damages recognize the non-economic impact of PTSD on your life.
  • Loss of Consortium: In cases where PTSD severely affects your relationship with a spouse or family, damages may be awarded for loss of consortium. This compensates your family for the loss of companionship, affection, and support caused by your PTSD.
  • Punitive Damages: Punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious or reckless, serving as a punishment to the liable party and a deterrent to others.
  • Life Care Expenses: For severe cases of PTSD that result in long-term or permanent disability, you may be awarded damages to cover life care expenses, which include long-term medical care, home modifications, and other costs associated with adapting to a new way of life.

Discuss Your Case with a Personal Injury Lawyer

Due to the complexities associated with PTSD and mental health conditions, pursuing a PTSD claim can be challenging to prove. Securing the legal counsel of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

At the Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers, we recognize the invisible wounds victims carry with them long after the physical scars have healed. Contact our law firm to arrange your free consultation today. We can use our 250 years of combined legal experience to incorporate PTSD into your personal injury claim to win you a settlement that reflects the entire scope of your injuries.

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