Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a specific diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder following an event which creates psychological trauma in response to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation. Typical symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, sleep disturbance, avoidance, mood disorders, suicidal ideation and hyper arousal. Symptoms of hyper arousal can affect breathing, pulse rate and bowel and/or bladder control.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

A GP will usually suggest or make an informal diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and will then refer their patient to a psychologist for a formal diagnosis and treatment.

In a personal injury claim, a Consultant Psychiatrist is instructed to diagnose the condition and any other psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression and so on. See the link for the diagnostic criteria, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria of the American Psychiatric Association.

Can I claim compensation for PTSD?

Many of our clients suffer PTSD as a result of the trauma they experience in accidents, whether they have suffered minor or serious, life changing injuries. Psychological injury forms a significant part of our day to day case handling. Our clients often say that they find it easier to cope with their physical injuries than their psychological injuries.

Psychological injury can arise from the trauma of an accident, the impact of the accident on their life, for example, loss of job leading to financial worries which causes depression, or the daily reminder of an accident through the physical scars they bear. Many of our clients are involved in road traffic accidents, whether as drivers or passengers involved in collisions with other vehicles, or cyclists and pedestrians. However, we also represent a variety of workers such as military personnel, care workers, nurses, teachers, firemen and police who suffer injury during the course of their employment, and members of the public who are injured in public places, such as parks, playgrounds and shops.

The impact of PTSD and other psychological injuries should not be underestimated as this can impact family life, social and recreational participation, work and daily living. Psychological injury can affect an individual’s ability to do their job and lead to financial loss. For example, if a healthcare professional is assaulted by a patient due to an employer not implementing a safe system of work or safe environment, the individual is often too frightened to return to the workplace either temporarily or permanently which can lead to loss of earnings and lifestyle.

How do you start a PTSD compensation claim?

If you think you have PTSD it is advisable to speak to your GP who may prescribe medication to help manage symptoms (particularly as PTSD can often be accompanied by Depression and/or Anxiety), and/or refer you for counselling. The NHS tends to have a long waiting list for psychological treatment and it is not always possible to see a counsellor or psychotherapist on a 121 basis due to limited NHS funds and resources. Private counselling can be costly.

Our solicitors have a good understanding of psychological injury and how it can impact on everyday life and function.

In a personal injury case it is vital to instruct specialised solicitors in the field to ensure that the right medico legal expert is instructed in the case to correctly diagnose the psychological condition. Just feeling scared or anxious or stressed is not enough to be compensated as the condition must be a recognisable psychological condition. It is also important to find a solicitor who can provide you with access to treatment as soon as possible to help in your recovery.

We aim to ensure that our clients have access to private treatment as early as possible. If left untreated, PTSD and other psychological conditions can have a significant impact on everyday life. Many of our clients fear going out of the house which can impact their ability to work, see friends and family, go shopping or engage in social activities. It can impact on relationships and family dynamics and often cause the breakdown of relationships.

Psychological injury is often a component part of a much wider and complex presentation in the injured people we represent, particularly those who suffer complex musculo-skeletal injuries eg lots of broken bones and soft tissue injury resulting in ongoing pain. Pain and psychological injury (eg depression and PTSD) will often have an impact on each other, so that when someone is in pain they feel depressed and mentally and physically drained, which in turn heightens their pain and it becomes a vicious cycle. The result of this can be to affect sleep, memory and concentration, mood and function. Having a solicitor who understands psychological injury and its interplay with other conditions is really important in terms of helping you to access the right and most suitable treatment and ensure that you receive the right amount of compensation.

Is there any difference between a military and civilian PTSD claim?

Yes. For example, if a civilian suffers PTSD because they have been involved in a road traffic accident where they were injured as a result of the other person’s negligent driving, they can bring a claim against the other party’s insurers or via the MIB (Motor Insurers Bureau where there is no insurer or the driver is untraced). In military PTSD cases, the principle of combat immunity applies, which means that military personnel cannot recover damages for PTSD via a civil claim against the MOD just because they have developed the condition due to the events they witness in their day to day job. There needs to be some negligence on the part of the MOD, for example this could be where there has been a diagnosis of PTSD and then failure to adequately treat, or failure to diagnose and/or treat. Injured armed forces personnel can make a claim for developing PTSD via the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme which is a separate, no fault scheme.

Symptoms experienced by individuals will be similar for example, nightmares and flashbacks, avoidance of situations that remind someone of the traumatic incident that led to their PTSD (triggers), being hyper vigilant and weary of certain situations, feeling emotionally numb, experiencing feelings of heightened anxiety, fear or panic attacks. However there may have been a number of traumatic events before there is a clear and full diagnosis of PTSD. Often military personnel will not want to admit to having psychological issues as this may be perceived as weak by their peers and superiors. This may lead to alcohol or substance abuse as a coping mechanism or they may become verbally or physically abusive as they struggle to cope with their emotions.

How long can it take for a PTSD Claim to be settled?

It depends on the nature and severity of the injury, whether the responsible party admits liability, and whether the responsible party agrees to fund psychological therapy early to help the injured person to maximise their recovery and return to function. In cases where PTSD is part of more complex injuries such as musculo-skeletal injuries, then it may take an injured person time to recover from the physical aspects of their injury through prolonged surgery and physical rehabilitation. In these circumstances, psychological therapy may be an ongoing process or something which is best left until there has been in improvement from physical injury. If liability is not admitted and the case is complex, proceedings need to be issued at Court against the responsible party/ their insurers within the 3 year limitation period. Once a case has been issued it can take up to 18 months to resolve.

How much compensation can be claimed for PTSD?

This can depend on the following factors:

  • The ability to cope with life, education and work.
  • The effect on relationships with family, friends and others.
  • The extent to which treatment would be successful.
  • Future vulnerability (whether the injured person is at risk of suffering further episodes in the future).
  • Prognosis (whether the injured person is likely to recover).
  • Whether medical help has been sought.

Where there is a full recovery within 1 to 2 years and only minor continuing symptoms awards range from £3500 to £7000. Where symptoms are permanent and prevent the injured person from working at all or functioning and where all aspects of life are badly affected awards can range from £52,500 to £88,000. This relates to compensation for the injury itself but there may be additional losses such as loss of earnings and pension, care, treatment costs and so on.