Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (usually abbreviated as PTSD) has received considerable attention in recent times as veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have returned home and attempted to reestablish their civilian lives. But PTSD is not limited to soldiers and sailors returning home from the battlefield: PTSD has been discovered in police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel, and rescue/disaster relief workers, all of whom are repeatedly exposed to traumatic or stressful events on a regular basis.
Injury victims who may suffer from PTSD symptoms such as anxiousness, a feeling of being disorganized or “out of sorts,” depression, and/or isolation present unique considerations in for the personal injury attorney. While your attorney should be expected to be patient with you in speaking with you and handling your case, there are also some considerations you may wish to consider and discuss with your attorney.
What are Some of the Special Considerations in Lawsuits Seeking Damages for PTSD?
If the carelessness or recklessness of another caused you to be exposed to a stressful or traumatic situation and you developed PTSD as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. The road to receiving that compensation, however, requires you to confront and overcome several obstacles:
- PTSD is a recognized mental condition: This means that you must meet the objective definition of PTSD before you can seek compensation for PTSD. In order to be determined to have PTSD (a diagnosis made by a qualified mental health professional), you must have been exposed to a traumatic event and experience four general categories of symptoms for at least a month after the traumatic event. The four categories include: hyperarousal (anger or irritability), avoidance (unable to recall the traumatic event), re-experiencing (flashbacks), and exposure to a traumatic event that involved either someone’s actual death or serious injury or the threat of death or serious bodily injury.
- You must be willing to work with your attorney: As difficult and unpleasant as it may be, you must be willing to share the extent of your symptoms with your attorney so that he or she can understand the nature of your PTSD and seek appropriate compensation for you.
- You may need to be in stressful or unpleasant situations in order to recover compensation: Your personal injury lawsuit may involve long depositions in an unfamiliar setting and/or long days arguing your case in court. As much as is possible, mentally prepare yourself for these events. Work with your attorney to create a plan for what to do if a deposition or trial goes too long and is causing you distress.
- Your attorney will want to talk about PTSD with the jury: You may be embarrassed or ashamed of your PTSD diagnosis, but during jury selection on the day of your trial your attorney will want to question prospective jurors during voir dire about their familiarity with PTSD, whether any of their family members have suffered from PTSD, and/or whether they have worked with anyone with PTSD.
- You may need the opinion of one or more expert witnesses: Your attorney may conclude that expert witnesses are valuable and would increase the likelihood of your case’s success. Be willing to visit with other mental health professionals other than the one you are accustomed to seeing and describing your symptoms to this person.
Addressing and overcoming these hurdles will increase the likelihood that you are able to recover monetary compensation from the person responsible for causing the development of PTSD.
Contact Ed Smith, California Personal Injury Attorney.
The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith is currently a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.