Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition that is most often associated with military members who were involved in traumatic events during active duty. However, PTSD can develop in anyone who experiences a trauma.
You may not realize that many victims of serious accidents—such as commercial truck or car crashes—can develop PTSD following the event. PTSD can cause many difficulties in the victim’s life and can significantly add to the overall cost of the accident. The following contains some additional information about PTSD in accident victims from our experienced personal injury lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD can have a serious effect on a victim’s life because of the nature of the symptoms of the disorder. While symptoms vary from person to person, the following are some of the common effects of PTSD:
- Sudden and realistic flashbacks of the traumatic event
- Nightmares and difficulty sleeping
- Irrational fears of benign objects
- Intense fears of anything associated with the event, such as fear of driving or riding in a vehicle after a car accident
- Lack of emotional control, often leading to angry and aggressive outbursts
- Physical effects, such as sweating or racing heart
- Severe anxiety
- Emotional numbness
These symptoms often lead PTSD victims to try to avoid anything that may remind them of their accident. This can keep them from engaging in regular activities, working, or even leaving their house.
Costs of PTSD and how To Recover
PTSD can be costly in many ways. First, due to the emotional effects and irrational fears that can develop, PTSD symptoms can prevent a person from being able to perform his job duties. This can result in a substantial amount of lost income until the condition is properly treated. Next, like any medical condition, treatment for PTSD is costly. Bills for psychological treatment for PTSD—such as Eye Movement Desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—can add up quickly.
Ensure that you have a law firm on your side—one that understands that PTSD is a real injury that can result from an accident, and that knows how to help you recover for your associated losses.
Causes of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental condition that most people commonly associate with military personnel who survive traumatic events, usually while on active duty. However, PTSD can develop in anyone who experiences trauma.
Many people don’t know that victims of serious accidents—such as commercial truck or car crashes—can develop PTSD following an accident. Victims of violent crimes may also develop PTSD. PTSD can cause many difficulties in the victim’s life and treating it can significantly add to the overall cost of the accident.
Seeking Legal Help After Suffering from PTSD
Although a lawsuit cannot remove the pain or anguish of PTSD, it can help reduce your financial burden.
If you meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis from a therapist, psychiatrist, or other mental health expert, you may sue to recover compensation for your injuries. Your best claim is to seek pain and suffering damages.
Economic and Non-Economic Damages
Usually, in personal injury cases, you can recover two different damages: economic damages and non-economic damages. An injured person can recover these damages whether they were in a car accident or slipped and fell.
Economic damages are easier to calculate, while non-economic damages are harder. Pain and suffering damages are subjective, and juries often receive little to no instruction on how to award them.
Pain and suffering damages fall under the category of non-economic damages.
Economic damages refer to compensation for monetary losses, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of past and future earnings
- Loss of use of property
- Costs of repair or replacement
- The economic value of domestic services
- Loss of employment
- Loss of business opportunities
A plaintiff must objectively verify monetary losses. In other words, facts independent of personal feelings or opinions must prove the monetary losses to qualify as economic damages.
Non-economic damages refer to compensation for non-monetary losses, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and anguish
- Worsening of prior injuries
- Reputational damage
- Loss of society
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Non-monetary losses are subjective. In other words, the non-monetary losses are related to or based on beliefs, attitudes, and opinions instead of verifiable evidence.
Seeking Non-Economic Damages for PTSD
It’s normal to experience PTSD after a traumatic and frightening event. Triggering experiences such as an assault, a car crash, or another injury can PTSD or aggravate an existing PTSD diagnosis.
PTSD often gets overlooked. Remember that there is nothing to be ashamed about, so honestly discuss your symptoms with your medical professionals and attorney.
The injuries you sustain due to a personal injury accident can affect different aspects of your life, whether it be your quality of life, personal relationships, or ability to participate in work or leisure activities. PTSD is the most common mental disorder experienced by trauma survivors, including survivors of motor vehicle accidents.
Generally, if the traumatic or frightening event was a car accident, you will need to show:
- The at-fault motorist breached the legal duty to exercise reasonable care for others while driving
- Your PTSD is ongoing and pervasive
- The conduct of the at-fault motorist is a direct cause of your distress
- You also suffered physical injuries
A medical expert can prove that you developed PTSD after a frightening or traumatic event.
A medical expert who can focus on your emotional well-being will assess your condition and adequately report your distress. Medical reports, notes, and visits will significantly help your case.
You deserve compensation for this emotional trauma. No one should continuously live life with fear and anxiety from an accident without holding the at-fault party responsible.
Whether you cannot drive a motor vehicle due to your PTSD (and the fear and flashbacks that come with it), or you experience other symptoms while going about day-to-day activities, seek help.
What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?
Pain and suffering is a legal term Illinois law uses to describe the physical and emotional anguish and distress of a bodily injury.
How to Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages
A wide array of factors come into play when determining damages for pain and suffering, including:
- The nature of the injuries
- Any physical and mental pain and suffering, both past and future
- Any disfigurement caused by the injuries
- The extent of impairment of the ability to perform usual activities
- Aggravation or worsening of any pre-existing conditions or illnesses
Lawyers generally calculate pain and suffering damages with the multiplier method or the per diem method.
The Multiplier Method
The multiplier method multiplies your economic damages by a number. The chosen number (known as the multiplier) will depend on factors that your personal injury lawyer will consider.
The most common factors that will affect your multiplier will include:
- The severity of your injuries
- The extent of your pain and suffering
- Your predicted prospects for a quick and complete recovery
- The impact of your injuries on your normal day-to-day life
- Whether the other party clearly caused your injuries
- How obvious the other party’s fault for the accident is
- Unquestionably observed or detected injuries by formal medical examination
- How painful and dramatic your injuries are, including whether you need surgical treatment or you can successfully recover from your injury
- Diagnosis and treatment that primarily come from physicians and hospitals
- Prolonged recovery of six months or more
- A medically documented, permanent consequence like pain, weakness, scarring, discomfort, or immobility
- Clear indication from physicians that you will have recurring, future, or degenerative problems from your injuries
For example, if a personal injury accident resulted in two broken limbs, that might cause about $50,000 in economic damages. Due to the severity of your injuries, you may get a multiplier of four, which would add to your damages.
In another example, if you suffered $100,000 in lost income because of your injury, your personal injury attorney may argue that you should recover four times that amount, equalling $400,000 for pain and suffering.
The Per Diem Method
Some personal injury attorneys will use a per diem method to calculate pain and suffering damages. “Per diem” is Latin for “per day.”
When using this method, your personal injury lawyer will evaluate your average pain and suffering for each day, then assign it a dollar amount. Then, your lawyer will multiply that dollar amount by the total number of days that you suffered.
For example, if your attorney believes that your day-to-day pain and suffering are worth $200, and it lasted for one month (or 31 days), the per diem method would generate $6,200 in noneconomic damages.
The hardest part of the per diem method is justifying the daily rate you or your personal injury attorney choose. To ensure that your daily rate is reasonable, use your actual daily earnings.
Here, the argument is that enduring and dealing with the pain and suffering caused by your injuries every day, at the minimum, compares to the effort of going to work each day.
The per diem method usually doesn’t work well with permanent or long-term injuries. If you have a permanent or long-term injury, contact a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer would most likely base your settlement demand on related verdicts in your jurisdiction.
Limits on Damages
Illinois sets no cap for how much a victim can recover for pain and suffering against private parties. Illinois law, however, caps most claims against the state at $100,000.
Despite the lack of a cap on damages, however, limits still exist.
1. Comparative Negligence
The comparative negligence rule decreases your damages if you partially caused the accident by your percentage of fault.
2. The Defendant’s Inability to Pay
If it turns out that the defendant’s insurance will only cover a certain amount, in most cases, you cannot recover more from them.
3. Evidence of Pain and Suffering
The multiplier or the estimates that determine pain and suffering often depend on the victim proving the extent of their injuries. In other words, you will need substantial evidence.
Without substantial evidence, you have a significantly lower chance of winning a court trial and may need to settle for far less than you expected.
Statute of Limitations
In other words, after someone else commits a careless act that results in your injury, you have two years to file the initial documentation in court. The clock starts ticking on the date of the accident that caused the injuries.
If you miss the filing deadline, you lose your right to ask the court to award you damages for your injuries.
A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
Many personal injury damages come from pain and suffering. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can represent you and fight for the proper compensation you deserve.
If you suffer from PTSD after an accident, you may seek non-economic pain and suffering damages. If your therapist or medical professional evaluated your symptoms and diagnosed you with PTSD, discuss those records and diagnoses with a personal injury lawyer.
Personal injury lawyers have experience representing and serving victims who have developed PTSD. They understand how PTSD can develop after experiencing an accident and how debilitating it is.
If you or a loved one experiences PTSD after a car crash or other personal injury accident, do not hesitate to reach out for help.
Call an attorney for a free consultation to learn more about potential damages and find out how you can receive the justice you deserve.
Contact a Chicago Personal Injury Attorney
Please call our office for a free consultation at 312-924-7575.