The definition of personal injury extends beyond the actual physical damage encompassing the impact of the injury on day-to-day functioning and future prospects, and on the psychological and emotional effects of the injury. Psychological injury, within the context of personal injury law, amounts to establishing whether a mental health disorder has resulted from the negligence of another party.
What differentiates a normal emotional reaction from a more serious psychological injury is decided by the range, severity and duration of psychological symptoms. If emotional distress caused by physical injury persists or worsens and impacts on daily functioning for a protracted time, your client may do well to be assessed by an Expert Witness psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.
What kind of psychological injuries are we talking about, and how can they be recognised?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is an anxiety disorder which can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It is characterised by vivid re-living of the incident, avoidance of reminders, jumpiness and sleep disturbance. PTSD is likely to affect around 19% of survivors of accidents and serious physical injury.
Other anxiety disorders, such as phobic anxiety
Some clients will have marked and persistent fear in certain situations following a trauma. For example, visiting hospital and doctors appointments may be difficult for clients in medical negligence cases. Driving or travelling as a passenger in a vehicle may be avoided in RTA survivors. Anxiety can sometimes manifest the form of panic attacks. The feared situation is often completely avoided, or endured with intense distress.
Clients in personal injury claims may suffer with persistent feelings of sadness and despondency, which can lead to fatigue, loss of concentration or lack of interest in life. Physical pain or chronic disability are known to be associated with an increased risk of depression.
What is the treatment?
The conditions described can be identified quickly and easily with the help of psychological screening questionnaires, followed by a full psychological assessment interview. It is recommended that personal injury solicitors have their clients complete screening questionnaires as a matter of course (screening questionnaires can be obtained directly from CBT Networks firstname.lastname@example.org).
For assessment, a qualified and experienced Expert Witness is essential. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is then used alongside structured clinical interview to determine the exact diagnosis, prognosis and treatment recommendations. Once assessment is complete, funding for recommended treatment can be applied for, helping your client on their journey to recovery.