Research shows that as many as 50% of people involved in a car accident will show symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) . Some symptoms can be mild and some can be severe. The most common experience is an increase in anxiety levels or stress response when met with triggering stimuli.
If you are pursuing a claim or lawsuit that includes damages for PTSD there are some key things you should know. Post-traumatic stress is a complicated psychological disorder and it can be tricky to prove – you often need an expert witness or other solid evidence.
In this article, we will organize the most important considerations so as to clear any confusion and to increase the chances you will be properly compensated. We’ll specifically discuss….
How to Succeed In a PTSD Lawsuit
If the recklessness or negligence of another driver has caused you to suffer from PTSD, you may want to file a personal injury lawsuit against them or their insurer. In doing so, you’ll need to retain a reputable attorney who will likely get a medical expert to vouch for your condition.
Beyond these basic steps, there are three key considerations to this type of lawsuit.
- Injury: You suffered some psychological injury and that is evident through symptoms, tests, etc.
- Causation: You can reasonably show that your condition is the result of the accident.
- Recoverable Damages: The minimum you should expect to recover is the out of pocket treatment costs.
Success or failure in this type of suit has a lot to do with the medical and legal professionals you choose to trust. It also can come down to a ‘battle of the experts’ as the other side may try to discredit your case with their own expert.
What is Expert Testimony and Why is it So Important?
In some court cases subject matter is introduced that will not make sense to the average person. Although most people have a basic grasp of what PTSD is, the legal system does not trust an ordinary juror to determine whether someone is suffering from PTSD. This is where an expert witness is brought it to do the assessment and define the concept for the court.
According to the Law Dictionary, an expert witness is:
A person who is a specialist in a subject, often technical, who may present his/her expert opinion without having been witness to any occurrence relating to the lawsuit or criminal case.
If a lawsuit goes to trial, an expert witness testifies as to what PTSD is and if someone is within those general parameters. If the expert witness has extensive experience with a patient they may speak in terms of diagnosis.
But generally, they are not authoritative in this way. The expert opinion must be backed up by other evidence or fact witnesses who can speak directly to the specifics of the case.
Factors that Affect the Value of a PTSD Lawsuit Settlement
Often the first thing people want to know about a stress-related lawsuit is how much might they expect to get out of it. Instead of simply saying it varies (which is true), we will lay out five factors which influence a settlement’s value.
- The severity of the injury – Unlike many physical injuries, documenting a mental injury is more challenging. It is, however, the single biggest determinant of damages. Attempts to quantify it can include assessing related injuries, the need for therapy and medications, time lost from work, etc.
- Loss of agency or the inability to work – In short, this is how the stress has affected your day to day life and your ability to provide for yourself. Many people (especially those with severe cases) struggle to return to normal functioning. Those who have missed work or even lost their job due to the symptoms of PTSD can receive the amount they have lost due to missing work or or even lost wages for future income.
In some cases, they can be compensated for any lost opportunities for a job. For example, if a victim of PTSD missed an interview due to their symptoms, they may be able to receive compensation for the lost job opportunity.
- Pain and suffering awards – Under common law, psychological injuries are eligible for reimbursement for pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering damages can considerably affect the total amount awarded.
- Punitive damages – It is not a common occurrence, but in situations where a defendant demonstrated particularly reckless behavior, the court may award additional damages to punish them. 3].
- The amount of money available – To some extent, the value of a settlement may be limited by the assets held by the other party or the policy limits of their insurance plan.
When a PTSD lawsuit is won, the payouts tend to be generous. According to information collected by A2L Consulting, a survey of nearly 1,400 civil jury verdicts across all jurisdictions and case types, showed that 60% of the plaintiffs received a settlement for their PTSD lawsuit. Of those 60%, about 30% received at least one million dollars in damages.
If you or a loved one is suffering from car accident-related PTSD, the best thing to do is get a proper medical evaluation and seek experienced legal counsel. In terms of lawsuits, let’s review the critical points.
- PTSD is an increasingly popular component of car accident lawsuits, and the key focus points are the injury, the causation, and recoverable damages.
- PTSD is a complicated psychological condition that relies on expert testimony and fact witnesses to prove.
- There are many variables that determine a settlement amount. In this case, some of the primary drivers are the severity of an injury, inability to work, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and the availability of assets to claim against.
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