Suffering an injury is a traumatic event regardless of the circumstances. What you once thought was a place of safety has proven to be otherwise. Among the many physical injuries that result from an accident, you may find yourself needing psychiatric care to move forward. Post-traumatic stress disorder is just one of these psychiatric issues, and one that can happen as a result of any form of trauma. Our legal system recognizes that claims for psychiatric injury are just as valid as claims for physical injury. However, because it is harder to see mental harm, different standards of proof apply. This article is meant to go over what it takes to prove that your injury caused post-traumatic stress disorder or any other psychological disorder.
Use of Expert Witnesses
Conditions like PTSD require the use of an expert witness to explain to the jury what is involved in the disorder. A broken bone is clearly visible to the layman through an x-ray. However, the average person cannot be expected to understand the difference between temporary and manageable distress that anybody would suffer after trauma, and full-blown PTSD. When proving that post-traumatic stress is tied to an accident, an expert in the field is called upon to highlight these distinctions.
An expert witness can go over the events and show how they can cause the disorder, and point to behavior patterns exhibited by the plaintiff that indicate the condition. They will also testify what other behaviors and ideas are warning signs of the condition. Defense attorneys will frequently provide competing expert witnesses to prove that the plaintiff does not have PTSD, meaning the jurors will have to lean on the preponderance of evidence to make their judgment.
Since the expert is established as such in his field ahead of time, he can make a diagnosis in court that the plaintiff suffers from this condition based on the evidence available. This diagnosis is strengthened if he has regular contact with the plaintiff.
While the expert can outline what is required to meet the conditions of post-traumatic stress or any other psychological decision, the use of layperson “fact” witnesses can be used to reinforce the position. A fact witness can be asked questions about specific behavior patterns exhibited by the plaintiff before, during, and after the accident. These statements of facts can bolster, or sometimes hamper, a claim based on mental injuries.
Note that since these witnesses are not experts, they are not considered to be qualified to make a claim that the plaintiff suffers from any mental disorder. They are also unable to claim that a behavior pattern is consistent with any known condition. Their job is merely to establish facts and leave the judgment call to experts and, ultimately, the jury.
Getting Compensation for PTSD
The treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder is long and arduous. The treatment is also expensive owing to the high costs of pharmaceuticals and therapy. If you’ve suffered an accident, and since then have been reliving the experience, suffered from mood swings, avoidance, or have been told by a doctor that you are afflicted with PTSD, consult an attorney. They may be able to get your medical bills reimbursed if your mental injuries were tied to a physical accident.