Claims for Psychological Injuries
Psychological injuries can also be an important part of a personal injury case. Post-traumatic stress disorder (also called post-traumatic stress syndrome) is a provable phenomenon that adds value to some cases. This disorder may involve headaches, nausea, dizziness, inability to concentrate, depression, irrational fears, etc. However, this is an area that is fraught with danger for claimants. The claim for a psychological injury opens your psychological history for inspection. This can create issues that impede a favorable settlement. The insurance company’s lawyer may be entitled to subpoena your client’s psychologist’s records. If these records disclose that the psychologist believes your client is a liar, the insurance company has found a potent weapon for court. The company may be unwilling to offer a fair settlement after obtaining this information.
Judges, juries, and insurance companies often view psychological injury claims with suspicion. Many people feel these kinds of claims are either phony or exaggerated. Others feel that people should simply deal with hurt feelings and financial compensation should not be awarded. Finally, the jury might view your client as greedy for pursuing a psychological claim. It is not advisable for a client to pursue such a claim unless the psychological injury is serious and credible. When the claim is real and provable, and when damaging information that can come out during discovery is minimal, psychological injury claims can and should be pursued.
In some states, the law seeks to weed out many of these claims by requiring that a physical manifestation accompany the psychological injury. For example, a car accident victim may develop a fear of riding in cars. If there is a physical injury, the psychological injury can be pursued. But if there is no physical injury, many states require other physical manifestations to be present before a claim for emotional damages can be pursued. At the very least, you must prove that the plaintiff suffered headaches, nausea, vomiting, etc.