Can You Sue for PTSD?
Feb 09, 2023
After an accident, insurance companies and other parties may discuss compensation for physical injuries and property damage. Bodily injuries, like soft tissue damage and broken bones, can take weeks or months to heal.
But what about scars that are not visible? One of the lesser-mentioned impacts of accidents is the victims' emotional trauma. For many, this emotional toll is hard to understand. Regrettably, it may last for years or even a lifetime.
If you have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and emotional distress caused by someone else's negligence, you may wonder: Can you sue for PTSD? The short answer is yes. For example, if a driver who is texting while driving hits you and causes emotional trauma, you may be able to hold them accountable for their actions.
However, proving PTSD can be difficult. That's why you need the help of experts like a qualified physician and a personal injury attorney to prove the severity of your PTSD.
What Is PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Its Symptoms?
According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is a "mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it." On the other hand, the Cleveland Clinic describes it as a "mental health issue that may develop after a traumatic event."
It's natural for people to feel afraid during or after traumatic events. Fear may trigger changes in the body to help it avoid or protect itself from danger. One may experience an increase in their heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, or alertness. This “fight-or-flight” response is a survival mechanism that happens automatically, helping the body deal with environmental stress and danger.
How PTSD Is Diagnosed
When assessing whether one has PTSD, there are no blood tests or scans involved. To diagnose this mental condition, your healthcare provider will likely:
- Do a psychological evaluation of your signs and symptoms and discuss details of the traumatic event.
- Conduct a physical exam to look for medical issues that may be causing PTSD symptoms.
- Apply the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
To be diagnosed with PTSD, you must have been exposed to the traumatic event(s), which can happen in various ways:
- You were directly involved in the event.
- You witnessed the event occurring to others.
- You discovered that a loved one has experienced or nearly experienced a traumatic event.
- You are repeatedly exposed to traumatic events, e.g., first responders and the military.
Traumatic Events That Could Cause a Person To Develop PTSD
Many types of events can lead to PTSD, including:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Sexual, physical, or verbal assault
- War and terrorism
- A life-threatening health problem
- Childbirth experiences, like losing a baby
- Workplace accidents
- The death of a loved one
- Abuse, including domestic and childhood abuse
- Natural disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes
Is It Possible To Sue for PTSD?
Now back to the main question: Can you sue someone for causing PTSD? The answer is yes — especially if their negligence is the direct cause of your mental condition. For example, suppose a truck driver runs a red light and hits your car, causing you to suffer long-term PTSD. In that case, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages for your physical injuries, pain, and mental anguish. This mainly depends on the facts of your case. Such a driver violates your rights as a road user and should be held accountable for their reckless actions.
Understanding Emotional Distress
While PTSD and emotional distress are similar, they do have their differences. For starters, PTSD has specific symptoms, while emotional distress doesn't. Some of the telltale signs of emotional distress include:
- Fear and anxiety
- Sleep disturbance
Suing for PTSD after a car accident as the basis for an emotional distress claim is possible. Here, you must prove your feelings of grief, fear, anxiety, etc., have had long-term negative impacts.
Proving Damages Caused by PTSD
Just like with any other injury claim, you must prove three essential elements to validate your case and recover compensation:
- There was an injury related to the traumatic event.
- Someone else's negligent actions caused the injury.
- The injury resulted in losses.
Sometimes, mental injuries can be more difficult to prove than physical injuries. For example, if you sustain a broken bone injury, X-rays, MRIs, and other procedures may prove the nature and severity of your injury.
However, an emotional injury doesn't "appear" on such tests. Experts may even disagree on whether a victim is suffering from PTSD. You'll need an experienced lawyer to gather and present compelling evidence proving you or your loved one is experiencing PTSD due to another party's negligence.
Calculating a Fair Settlement
If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, an attorney can help you secure fair compensation for your PTSD damages. Here are some factors to consider:
- Severity of your injuries. Even though your accident may not lead to serious physical injuries like third-degree burns, you may experience permanent physiological issues.
- Lost wages and diminished earning capacity. You may have a claim for lost wages and benefits if your condition affects your ability to work.
- Pain and suffering. There are two ways to calculate these damages.
- Per diem method. This is the daily rate method where compensation is calculated as your average daily pay rate multiplied by the days you've experienced pain and suffering.
- Multiplier method. This method factors in one's medical expenses and multiplies that amount by a figure between 1.5 and five. The negotiated figure is based on the severity of the emotional trauma.
- Punitive damages. These damages are awarded at the court's discretion to punish defendants for their outrageous conduct.
- Insurance and assets. When pursuing PTSD damages, the defendant's insurance cover and assets may also cover the costs.
Speak With a Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Options Today
Selecting the right attorney is like choosing a therapist or doctor. You'll need to feel comfortable revealing how you feel, sharing your medical history, and what you hope to achieve after your treatment or therapy.
This also applies when suing for PTSD. You need to have a lawyer in your corner to freely share your thoughts and feelings and speak about how your accident has affected your behavior and life. That's where The Spence Law Firm comes in.
Contact us today to speak to our personal injury attorneys about your PTSD claim. We offer risk-free consultations for injured victims and are ready to help you today.
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If you are struggling with a serious injury, or are fighting against seemingly impossible odds against big corporations, insurance companies or the government, call us to speak with our team of trial lawyers who will fight for you. We take no fee unless we earn it by winning your case.