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How to Sue for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Can You Sue for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition occurring after some traumatic event. It is commonly associated with individuals who have served in the military. However, it can develop from a wide range of incidents, including car accidents.

Symptoms for PTSD include flashbacks, depression, withdrawal from social settings, apathy, anxiety, and phobias. As many as 8% of US population live with PTSD symptoms. If you have been struggling with psychological or social consequences in the aftermath of a traumatic incident, a medical diagnosis may uncover PTSD.

After you are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, you may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused you to develop the disorder.

How to Succeed with a PTSD Lawsuit

If someone’s recklessness or negligence caused you to develop PTSD, the focus in the lawsuit will be on expert testimony. To establish PTSD, your attorney may invite an expert witness, likely a psychiatrist, to testify about and convince the court as to the following:

  • Injury: You suffered some psychological injury, as shown by various symptoms
  • Causation: A specific traumatic event triggered that mental or emotional injury
  • Recoverable Damages: You should at least recover your treatment costs

The challenge in a PTSD lawsuit comes from the "battle of experts." Opposing experts will likely argue that PTSD can only be triggered by some enormous traumatic events related to wars and natural disasters. The jury will have to decide if plaintiff’s PTSD claims are genuine.

PTSD and Claims for Emotional Distress

If a plaintiff’s claim is genuine, PTSD may serve as the basis for various emotional distress claims. For example:

  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: Evidence of a PTSD diagnosis indicates that the defendant’s conduct was intentional and outrageous.
  • Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: If the defendant’s negligent conduct caused the plaintiff’s PTSD, the defendant may be liable for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

What Are Some Implications of PTSD Diagnosis for Other Legal Matters?

Your PTSD diagnosis may have implications for a variety of legal matters, both civil and criminal. For example:

In Civil Cases: In addition to bringing a personal injury lawsuit, PTSD may support the following claims:

  • Claims against employers under American with Disabilities Act (ADA) for failing to accommodate an employee’s PTSD
  • Workers’ Compensation claims

In Criminal Cases: Since post-traumatic stress disorder is classified as a mental condition, it may be applicable as a criminal defense or a mitigating circumstance. For example, a PTSD diagnosis may be a basis for the following defenses:

  • "Battered woman" or "rape trauma" syndrome
  • Partial defense of diminished capacity
  • Complete defense of insanity

When to Seek Help from an Attorney

If you have suffered from a traumatic event, you should consult with a qualified personal injury attorney to understand your legal rights. You may have a legal claim related to a diagnosis for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Photo of page author Pavel Leshchinskiy

, LegalMatch Legal Content Developer

Last Modified: 03-05-2018 10:01 PM PST

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