Austin Personal Injury Blog

PTSD & Your Personal Injury Case

Posted By The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC || 9-Mar-2018

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition as a result of a traumatic incident. While it is commonly associated with those who have served in the military, it can develop from a wide range of events, including car accidents or sexual assault. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, depression, anxiety, phobias, apathy, and withdrawal from social settings.

After an accident or injury, an individual who is suffering PTSD may be eligible to obtain compensation for the health condition as part of an injury-related insurance claim, or in a personal injury lawsuit. However, PTSD is a complex psychological disorder and a plaintiff will have a difficult time making this type of claim without supporting testimony from an expert witness, such as a psychiatrist or mental health professional.

Why Use Expert Testimony When Proving PTSD?

When certain things discussed in court are beyond the comprehension of the average juror, it is a legal rule to have an expert witness testify in order to explain the issue and—depending on the case—provide an opinion as to whether the issue does or not does exist in the case. Although PTSD is part of common knowledge, the condition is not understood in all its specifics by the average juror. So in order for an average juror to properly assess whether a plaintiff suffers from PTSD, an expert witness is required to perform the assessing for them.

An expert witness will testify about and convince the court as to the following:

  • Injury – The plaintiff suffered some psychological injury, as shown by a variety of symptoms
  • Causation – A specific traumatic event triggered that mental or emotional injury
  • Recoverable Damages – The plaintiff should at least recover their treatment costs

First, the expert witness will testify first to his or her qualifications as an expert in the field of PTSD. Next, he or she will testify to the nature, signs and symptoms of PTSD, such as the initial stressful event, intrusive flashbacks and recurring thoughts about the event, anxiety, and disruption of important areas of the plaintiff’s life.

However, it is not enough for an expert witness to testify as to their qualifications to PTSD and then provide a diagnosis. Other witnesses—generally referred to as fact witnesses—may, and often do, give additional testimony about whether the plaintiff has the signs and symptoms the expert witness has described as necessary for a positive PTSD diagnosis.

In other words, the expert is not necessarily providing testimony about the fact that the plaintiff has PTSD, but is testifying about what facts must be proven to establish PTSD. The fact witnesses are those who have personally witnessed the plaintiff exhibiting all of the symptoms or those who the plaintiff has described the symptoms to.

In conclusion, the more credible sources you have to prove the facts of a PTSD claim, the stronger your case will be.

If you have suffered an injury caused by a negligent party in Texas, schedule a free consultation with our Austin personal injury lawyers at The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC today.

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