Claim Compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
What is post-traumatic stress disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder which comes about as a reaction to events which are especially distressing, upsetting or stressful. Events which most commonly result in a person suffering from PTSD include military service, criminal assault, rape, road traffic accidents, accidents at work and any severe situation in which the person involved either genuinely feared for their life or otherwise felt extremely heightened levels of terror.
Whilst virtually anyone undergoing an ordeal of this kind would be bound to register a severe psychological reaction, the reality of PTSD is that it has an ongoing negative effect on the person’s life moving forward, manifesting itself via a range of psychological and physical symptoms which stop the person in question living their life to the full, as well as impacting negatively upon the people around them. In most cases, the negative psychological reaction to a traumatic event will fade with time, but sufferers of PTSD find themselves unable to move on, and may require long term and multi-faceted forms of treatment.
Common causes of PTSD
Some of the common causes of PTSD include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Military combat.
- Witnessing a violent crime or death.
- Serious road traffic accidents.
- Serious accidents at work.
- Terrorist attacks.
- Hostage situations.
- Violent assaults such as rape, mugging or robbery.
- Natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods.
Of the people suffering severe trauma, approximately one in 3 will go on to develop some form of PTSD. Psychologists do not yet understand completely why some people go on to develop PTSD whilst others don’t.
The symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD may make themselves known within a few weeks of the traumatic event, but they can manifest themselves up to 6 months later. It should be noted that simply feeling anxious or distressed following a traumatic event doesn’t, in itself, represent a case of PTSD. An anxious response to a traumatic event is completely natural and forms a part of the individuals way of coming to terms with what happened. If the feelings persist, build and come to dominate a person’s life, however, then there’s every chance they are suffering from PTSD.
Commons symptoms include feeling anxious, depressed, angry and affected by waves of grief and guilt. Other side effects of the condition are:
- Avoidance of activities, places or people which remind you of the event, coupled with a need to constantly stay busy to distract from unpleasant thoughts of the event.
- A constant feeling of alertness and an inability to relax which can also manifest itself as insomnia.
- Flashbacks to the traumatic event and a sensation of reliving it.
- Physical symptoms such as aches, pains, palpitations, headaches, panic attacks and diarrhoea.
- Self-medication in the form of drinking too much alcohol and taking drugs, whether illegal or in the form of prescription painkillers.
It should be noted, particularly with reference to seeking compensation for PTSD, that it is regarded as a psychological injury rather than a mental illness.
Studies have revealed that the brains of those people suffering from PTSD have undergone major structural changes, with the physical make-up of the amygdala and hippocampus being altered by the impact of the trauma. These changes, particularly if a person has not been diagnosed with PTSD, can cause huge feelings of confusion for the patient, with the ability to express themselves verbally, control their emotions and maintain short term memory being most commonly effected. The changes to the medial prefrontal cortex in particular, which regulates the person’s ability to control fear and emotion, can result in the patient being frightened no matter what they’re doing.
Treatment for PTSD
The link between PTSD and mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, phobias and panic attacks, operates in both directions, with people already experiencing these conditions being more likely to develop PTSD, whilst those who develop PTSD are more likely to suffer accompanying mental health problems.
Bearing this in mind, it is vital to seek treatment as soon as you become aware that you may be suffering from PTSD, as any delay will make it more likely that other mental health problems will occur. The treatment on offer for PTSD can roughly be broken into two strands, talking and non-talking.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a talking therapy based upon the idea that thought patterns trigger problems such as PTSD, and that a therapist can help to guide a patient to avoid the types of thinking which exacerbate their problems. A course of treatment would probably entail several weekly sessions of up to 50 minutes each, with the patient completing ‘homework’ activities in-between.
Other forms of talking therapy include counselling, group therapy and anxiety management.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) – this is a form of therapy which, although scientists are not sure why, seems to help patients to control their thought patterns following an event until the memories become less upsetting. The therapy takes the form of the patient following the therapists moving finger with their eyes whilst recalling traumatic details of the event.
Self-help – joining a group of other people affected by PTSD may prove to be a helpful means of processing feelings and benefitting from the experience of others.
Non talking treatments take the form of medication and may be administered at the same time as talking treatments. Medications often prescribed for PTSD include anti-depressants and, in the short term, tranquilisers such as diazepam.
Starting a compensation claim for PTSD
If you’re suffering from PTSD, it can have a massively detrimental effect. Every part of your life, from your ability to work to the pleasure you gain from social interactions and your relationships with loved ones can be adversely affected. If the traumatic event which caused the PTSD was a genuine accident which was no-one’s fault, then there’s nothing to be done except acknowledge the condition, seek the right treatment and rely on the support of friends and family. If the event in question was caused by the negligence of another party, however, you may well be in a position to make a claim for compensation.
The negligence in question could take many forms. It may be the careless driving of another road user which leads to a road traffic accident, the lax safety standards in a factory causing an industrial accident, or an attack by a violent criminal. Whatever the precise situation, if your distress and ongoing debilitation was brought about by the mistakes of another party then you have every right to seek compensation.
The claim process
The compensation process consists of two distinct and overlapping strands. The first involves demonstrating that you are, in fact, suffering from PTSD, which would be done via an examination by an independent medical expert, whilst the second consists of building a case to show that the other party was negligently responsible for the original traumatic event. This will require the involvement of expert solicitors versed in collecting the evidence needed to build such a case, including police and hospital records, eye-witness accounts, photographic and CCTV evidence, workplace accident books and anything else which can be used to put together a picture of what actually happened.
The amount of compensation an individual claimant receives for a case of PTSD caused by negligence will differ from case to case. The amount awarded will be calculated on the basis of the severity of the injury itself, with an amount also being awarded to compensate for any expenses arising from the PTSD, whether that means travel costs, medical fees, other out of pocket expenses or an extrapolation of wages lost due to the condition, both now and in the future.
Although the workings of the no win no fee system became slightly more complicated following the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the principle still remains that any claimant will be protected against the risk of loss, and will keep up to 75% of the compensation awarded.