Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a very serious diagnosis, and the symptoms can cause difficulty for survivors at work, at home, and for years into the future. Although many people suffering with PTSD respond well to treatment, it can be difficult to take the initial steps to get help, work through the process of treatment, and pay the medical bills that result.
Working closely with accident victims and their families for so long, we have seen the impact that PTSD can have on those suffering from it. If you or someone you love is suffering with PTSD after a car accident, work accident, or other traumatic event that should have been prevented, you may be able to get the medical help you need and compensation for the treatment necessary to manage the symptoms and begin to move forward with life.
Below, you’ll find more information about what a diagnosis of PTSD may mean for you, as well as how to contact our experienced attorneys for help with your legal rights. However, if you have immediate questions about your situation, please don’t hesitate to call us now.
How is PTSD diagnosed?
Doctors and mental health providers use specific criteria to diagnose people with PTSD. These criteria are included in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which was last updated in 2013. According to the DSM-5, the following are the basic criteria for diagnosing PTSD in adults and children over the age of six:
- Traumatic event. When diagnosing PTSD, the “traumatic event” may be a car accident, work accident, airplane crash, accident at sea, or other kind of exposure to death, serious injury, sexual violence, or the threat of those events. The traumatic event may have happened to you directly, or you may have witnessed it. In some cases, PTSD can also be caused by repeated exposure to traumatic events or indirect experience of a highly traumatic event.
- Re-experiences of the event. Symptoms of “re-experiencing” the trauma are present in some way when PTSD is diagnosed. For example, it's common to suffer from flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or memories, nightmares, or strong reactions to reminders of the event.
- Avoidance. For a number of reasons, you may find yourself avoiding thoughts, feelings, locations, people, and situations related to the traumatic event.
- Changes in mood and thought patterns. Doctors and mental health providers also look for evidence of negative changes such as memory issues, negative thoughts and emotions, loss of interest in pre-trauma activities, feelings of detachment or isolation, and emotional “numbness.”
- Arousal symptoms. PTSD is also known to heighten arousal symptoms, such as hypervigilance, being easily startled, increased anger and irritability, sleep difficulties, and trouble concentrating.
Keep in mind that PTSD can present itself in many different ways. While the examples of symptoms listed above are common among those suffering from PTSD, it’s still important to see a doctor or mental health provider for an accurate diagnosis in order to get the proper treatment. Treatment of PTSD, which might include counseling, specific therapies, or medications, can be very effective in alleviating symptoms and helping the recovery process.
Impact of PTSD and its effect on your future
Although the symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, the effect of this disorder on your life can be far reaching, including:
- Mental health. People with PTSD may be at a greater risk of developing other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that people with PTSD are six times as likely to commit suicide as people without the diagnosis.
- Physical health. Studies have shown that PTSD can also have an effect on a person’s physical health. People with PTSD may be at a greater risk for some long-term health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. Many people who suffer from PTSD after an accident also have physical injuries from the event that require treatment or cause limitations during their emotional recovery.
- Work and school. Many of the symptoms of PTSD make it difficult to function in the work environment or at school, and it can be difficult to determine a timeline for recovery. The diagnosis can also have an effect on certain licensing and screening requirements for some jobs. For example, you may not be able to renew a maritime license with a mental or emotional disorder.
- Family, friends, and relationships. PTSD can put a strain on relationships with spouses, family members, and friends. The added emotional and financial strain of caring for someone with PTSD can increase the pressure on loved ones, as well as the loss of intimacy that often goes hand in hand with the condition.
Compensation for PTSD
Financial compensation for PTSD depends on the nature of the traumatic event and whether it was the caused as a result of someone else's negligence. If you developed PTSD after a serious car accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be able to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company that would cover any physical injuries and your emotional distress. Even if no physical injuries occurred, it's still possible to file a claim for the emotional distress caused by the accident and the debilitating affect it's had on your life. Similarly, if you develop PTSD after a terrible accident at work, you may be able to file a claim against your employer’s insurance company.
Injury claims for PTSD can include compensation for:
- The cost of injuries and treatment
- Lost wages and lost future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
In some cases, it may be possible to seek additional punitive damages against the at-fault party, meant as punishment for especially negligent or reckless behavior. If other injuries or losses were suffered in the traumatic event, those will also play a part in the final amount of the recovery.
Proving PTSD in a personal injury claim or lawsuit
Since emotional trauma is difficult to measure, when seeking compensation for PTSD, you will be asked to essentially “prove it", that it was caused by a traumatic event, and that the people paying the bill are liable. Similar to the application process for benefits through Veteran’s Affairs or Social Security disability, there are certain criteria that must be met to qualify for those benefits. In a personal injury lawsuit, there needs to be evidence to support your claims or it's likely your condition won't be taken seriously. Although the severity of PTSD is recognized and varying degrees of emotional distress are to be expected after an accident, insurance companies will do their best to minimize your condition.
In a claim against an insurance company or an employer, it can be very difficult for the survivor to stand up to attorneys, insurance adjusters, company representatives, and others who have a lot of experience defending against these kinds of claims. It can be unclear how the laws apply to your situation and even what kinds of evidence might help prove your case.
An experienced attorney can help you gather the medical documentation, work documentation, and other evidence needed to support your claims including medical experts to offer their testimony and evaluation of the situation. If you have any questions about your legal rights, want to know what options are available, or how to get started, call our office today to speak to one of our attorneys. Tell us your story during a free, no-obligation consultation and get the answers you need to make the best decision for your case and your family's future.