Robert D. Fink, Partner, Collison Law Offices, Ltd. said: “My client suffered significant PTSD as a result of an accident; however her physical injuries were comparatively minor. In preparing for a mediation, I knew I had to come up with a way to show the devastating impact the incident had on my client’s life and her family’s life. I contacted Evidence Video who made a Settlement Documentary which included interviews of friends, family and a medical expert, combined with a Day in the Life Video of my client. The video was exactly what I needed and was instrumental in resolving the case for $1.2M.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can be used in both civil and criminal law. Personal injury, workers’ comp, and disability insurance litigation have all used PTSD and the courts have often recognized testimony about PTSD as scientifically reliable. In addition, appellate courts in US jurisdictions recognize PTSD as a valid basis for insanity, unconsciousness and self defense, diminished capacity, diminished judgement, and sudden abnormal mental injury.
Specifically, PTSD is a serious disorder that develops in some, but not all people who are exposed to a shocking event, The death of a loved one or the loss of a job can be traumatic but that is not PTSD. Doctors diagnose PTSD only after a victim has a traumatic event which involves the risk of death or serious bodily injury either to themselves or others. These victims then suffer intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Flashbacks, avoidance, reactivity symptoms and cognition and mood changes are all part of the victims’ anxiety. Victims can be very easily startled, feel like they are living on the edge, can’t sleep, get dizzy, sweat, experience chest pain, or simply feel frozen and trapped inside their bodies.
The American Psychiatric Association labels PTSD as an anxiety disorder which can be mild or severe, and can be of short or long duration. Sadly, you can be left with a permanent long-lasting disability. People become terrified by the event which is outside the range of a normal typical human experience and continues to relive the event over and over in their mind.
Compared to others, brain scans of victims have shown that the hippocampus is affected differently in people with PTSD compared to others because the hippocampus engages in processing emotions and memories and affects the chance of flashbacks. Doctors have also discovered hormones released in a fight or flight situation appear different.
As the diagnosis for PTSD has come to the forefront in the media, trial attorneys are beginning to recognize how demonstrating a client’s PTSD diagnosis and symptoms can increase the awards for damages, long term care, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and/or loss of pleasurable activities etc.
The testimony of the victims and other witnesses to the traumatic event is important evidence. Videos and photos are key. A plaintiff’s attorney will want to show the courts the horror of the event. The Day in the Life Video or Settlement Documentary can reveal the changes between pre- and post-life experiences. Many victims avoid places, things, or events that remind them of their accident which a video helps document for the defense counsel. Videos must hold up as truth and often the defense will then hire a private investigator to do surveillance and confirm what they had been given by the plaintiff’s counsel.
The awards for pain and suffering coupled with the awards for physical injuries can be significant if supported by the documented facts. Critical also, is the use of a highly qualified clinical expert who details the history, administered neuropsychological tests, CT scans, and reviewed medical records. This expert can then express an unbiased risk assessment. Forensic Psychologists bridge the gap between the law and psychology.
In working with Attorney Robert Fink of Collison Law Offices, Ltd. Evidence Video introduced Jeff Borchardt, president of Safeway Psychological Services to Robert Fink. The client is confidential but the settlement success was due in part to having the right team of experts working with partner Robert Fink and his client.
Safeway Psychological Services, is a national organization dedicated to the psychological needs of patients and attorneys in the personal injury arena. Safeway understands that recognition and awareness of PTSD is often subpar and can go undiagnosed. “Lawyers and first-line medical professionals repeatedly field these concerns from their clients and patients, but do not know how to address these concerns or where to refer these individuals to the proper specialist.” Mr. Borchardt went on to say that most if not all of his patients do not have health insurance. Clients seek mental health services in the community, and this then becomes a daunting task which triggers the anxiety that can accompany PTSD. “Try telling a mental health professional or a hospital that you (the victim) do not have health insurance and that you were hoping they (the specialist/hospital) would like them to work on a lien or an LOP … not going to happen!”
Mr. Borchardt said “Our number one goal is to assist individuals with their psychological trauma by attempting to get them in the frame of mind they had, prior to the traumatic event”. Borchardt said he gets phone calls every week from patients who have “been saved” because of his psychological counseling services and attorneys call as well and say that their case was “made” because of the psychological assessment and clinical documents that have been provided. Furthermore, attorneys are quick to share their clients have received 100% of the demand for psychological damages when Borchardt and Safeway Psychological Services are involved. Safeway’s corporate offices are in Milwaukee, WI.