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,
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
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.