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When Can You Sue for PTSD for Auto Accident Injuries?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

When a person is injured in an auto accident, they may be entitled to recover monetary damages for their injuries. In some circumstances, an injury victim can be entitled to recover after suffering an emotional, or mental health, injury, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as a result of a car accident. Unless the mental health injury rendered a person incapacitated, they will need to file a lawsuit within the normal time period allowed by their state to file.

While uncommon, in severe auto accidents, particularly when there is a loss of life, severe injuries, or maybe just a whole lot of property damage, it is easily foreseeable that an individual could suffer from PTSD. However, to establish a personal injury case based upon a PTSD diagnosis can be rather challenging. Unlike broken bones, cuts, bumps, and bruises, a mental health injury may not visible on the surface.

Problems of Proof

When suing for a PTSD injury related to a car accident, a plaintiff will need to prove that a qualified doctor made an accurate PTSD diagnosis and that the diagnosis is attributable, at least in part, to the accident. To accomplish this, it is highly likely that expert medical witness testimony will be required.

However, despite what a medical expert states, other problems could arise if the accident was only a minor accident, or there are other tragic incidents, particularly recently, in the plaintiff's past, or a prior diagnosis for PTSD. However, even if a diagnosis may not be attributable to an accident, a flare up of PTSD symptoms may still be relevant. In other words, it can be claimed that a car accident made an individual's PTSD worse.

One Bite of the Settlement Apple

A significant problem with PTSD auto accident claims is the timing of a settlement. Frequently, injury victims will settle their cases within 6 month or a year after their injury without ever filing a lawsuit. Just as frequently, PTSD can go undiagnosed for months, or longer if a victim does not have a solid support network. Unfortunately, in nearly every state, once a person settles a personal injury claim, they cannot reopen the case unless there are extraordinary circumstances, such as a fraud in the inducement to sign. Typically, an undiscovered injury will not qualify to reopen a settled case.

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