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Individuals who are put in fear for their life because of their involvement in a life threatening traumatic event may experience post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. In many cases there will be associated physical injuries but PTSD can occur when there has been no physical injury.
Those directly involved in the event, referred to as 'primary victims'. The law accepts that these people who are injured or placed in immediate danger of injury and who go on to suffer a psychiatric illness should be compensated.
PTSD can also result from of witnessing the traumatic injury or death of a love one for example being present and seeing a car crash that causes the death of a spouse. People making claims in those circumstances would be referred to as 'secondary victims' since they were not directly affected or involved in the traumatic event.
Secondary victims are unable to make a claim based on 'normal' feelings of shock, anxiety or grief they may experience after seeing a traumatic event. To make a claim they must be suffering from recognised psychological condition. PTSD is such a condition.
The complex nature of the illness means you may not begin to experience Post traumatic stress disorder symptoms until many months or years after the original trauma. Whether you experience PTSD immediately following an accident or only begin to encounter problems sometime after the event, you may still be entitled to make a post-traumatic stress disorder claim.
How do I make a PTSD claim
In order to make a successful claim for post traumatic stress disorder, you must demonstrate that not only are you suffering from the illness, but that it is a direct consequence of the accident or traumatic event you were involved in.
We must then prove that another person’s negligence was responsible for the accident itself. This proof need only be to the standard of the ‘balance of probabilities’ required in civil cases.
The symptoms of PTSD may not become serious until well after the traumatic episode that caused them, but the sooner you contact our expert lawyers to make a possible PTSD claim the better. We will provide all the help, advice and support you require as well as preparing a case on your behalf.
Many PTSD victim are members of the emergency services or the armed forces. In these cases, not only must we prove that your PTSD is a direct result of a civil emergency or military combat, but also that the relevant employer (fire, police or MOD) failed to identify and treat your condition.
Making a successful claim against the MOD for failure to identify and treat PTSD is difficult while claims by police officers who witnessed the Hillsborough disaster were rejected. Our team will do everything in its power to ensure you receive compensation for your psychological injury and put you in touch with civilian PTSD support groups such as Mind or military charities like Forces in the Community and Combat Stress.
If I have a PTSD case
You will have a case for making a post traumatic stress disorder claim if the psychological injury is more than the ‘normal’ upset and emotion that would expected to result from the traumatic event you suffered or witnessed.
Some professions are more likely to be exposed to the risk of psychological injury. Members of the armed forces and emergency services run a greater risk of injury in their jobs and will frequently come face to face with shocking scenes.
You need not have sustained any physical injury but your condition must also be a recognisable, properly diagnosed psychological illness in order to be considered PTSD. Psychological injuries differ from physical injuries in that they may not be immediately apparent and are very difficult to diagnose.
People who have suffered PTSD as a consequence of directly witnessing a traumatic event involving family members may also have a case for making a PTSD claim as a secondary victim. However, as a result of the cases of Hillsborough relatives and attending emergency services who claimed to be secondary victims, there are strict limits on who can bring such a claim.
As awareness of PTSD and other types of psychological injury increases, more people are successfully claiming for real and potentially devastating psychiatric conditions. If we think you have a good case for making a claim, our experienced personal injury team can give you the justice you deserve and the therapy and support you need.
More about PTSD claims
PTSD is a specific illness and in order to make a successful PTSD disability claim it is essential to first obtain a confirmed diagnosis. After talking and listening to you, the first thing any PTSD lawyer at Shoosmiths will do is arrange for an independent medical consultant (usually a psychiatrist) to examine you.
That expert's report will describe the severity of your symptoms and how long they might last. This will allow us to determine what immediate help and support you require and properly value your claim to take account of any future needs. Post traumatic stress disorder symptoms can include extreme anxiety, flashbacks and emotional detachment. Feelings of depression and hopelessness are common and in the most severe cases, victims may have suicidal thoughts.
PTSD is usually associated with military or emergency service personnel. They appear to be coping whilst on duty but very often problems manifest themselves much later, when the immediate danger seems to have gone. However, PTSD can affect anyone at any age and whatever the cause, if your health and quality of life has been damaged, you may be entitled to make a claim.
Most personal injury claims have a three year time limit from the date of the original accident. However, there are exceptions and claims for post traumatic stress disorder may be one of them. Our team can advise you, usually on a No-Win-No-Fee basis, about all the options open to you.
PTSD government help and benefits
A mental health condition is considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if it has a long-term effect on your normal day-to-day activity. Those suffering from PTSD therefore may be entitled to help, but mental health provision in the UK is often patchy and has been described as a ‘Cinderella service’.
While benefits such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Universal Credit, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) may be available, practical help and assistance tends to come from charities such as Rethink and Mind or military support groups like Forces in the Community for ex-service men and women.
PTSD victims may also be entitled to claim Housing Benefit and be eligible for Council Tax support and discounts. In general, government support is either means-tested, based on current income and savings, or based on National Insurance contributions and an assessment of the level of your disability.
If your diagnosed PTSD is considered ‘mild’, an approach called ‘watchful waiting’ may be taken. This involves monitoring your symptoms to see whether they improve or get worse. Two in every three people who develop problems after a traumatic experience get better without treatment within a few weeks, so will be unlikely to need any support other than from their GP.
I deal with civil litigation for individuals whose claims involve complex liability issues as well as leading a team of lawyers within our serious injuries unit who deal with high value personal injury litigation.View full profile
Sharine is an award-winning lawyer in the personal injury department, acting on behalf of claimants and their families through a wide range of cases including stress at work, workplace accidents, illness and disease claims, asbestos related claims, psychiatric illness/PTSD and military claims.View full profile
'Shoosmiths got me the rehab I needed and really helped with my family. They were fantastic throughout.'
Recognised by bodies like the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, our experts have strong links with key therapists and charities such as Forces in the Community who help veterans and their families.Why Shoosmiths