Following a motorcycle accident, troublesome mental side-effects can last long after the bruises and scrapes have healed.
Some motorcycle accident victims develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD — a mental health condition caused by being a part of or witnessing a traumatic event.
The good news for PTSD sufferers in the Baton Rouge area is that they may be eligible for compensation under Louisiana’s personal injury laws.
What is PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs when a person who has seen a very frightening or stressful event continues to suffer from mental side effects for months, or even years. Victims of PTSD may suffer from any of the following:
- Intense physical reactions
- Severe anxiety
- Numbness in regards to daily activities
- Intrusive thoughts about the event that they can’t control
These symptoms are often so severe that they interfere with the sufferer’s ability to enjoy life or function normally.
Unlike normal feelings of anger or sadness, PTSD symptoms may not get better with time, and may last for months or even years.
For example, a motorcyclist who was hit by a drunk driver might still have recurring nightmares about their accident months after the fact. They might feel unable to stop replaying the traumatic event in their mind, or may have panic attacks when they go by the scene of the accident.
Please note: If you think you may have PTSD, it is important to seek medical help.
Suing for Personal Injury in Louisiana
Under Louisiana Civil Code 2315, any person who causes harm to another person must compensate them for the damage they did.
This law makes it possible for motorcycle crash victims to file personal injury lawsuits against the person or people who caused their accident. The law addresses both physical injuries and mental injuries, such as depression, anxiety or PTSD caused by the accident.
In Louisiana, negative mental consequences that are directly caused by an incident are often referred to as “mental anguish.” Under Louisiana law, a victim cannot file a civil lawsuit just because they experienced negative feelings, such as anger, embarrassment or sadness following their accident. To sue, a plaintiff must demonstrate that their case meets two conditions:
- First, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s actions caused their physical or mental injury.
- Second, the plaintiff must show that their mental anguish was serious enough to cause long-lasting side-effects, such as those associated with PTSD.
Meeting the Legal Standard
In Louisiana, a person cannot sue for mental anguish alone. However, if the party that caused the accident inflicted mental or physical injury, either intentionally or through negligent behavior, mental anguish can be an important component of a personal injury lawsuit.
Physical injuries are often fairly easy to prove, but proving mental injury is more challenging.
In a civil lawsuit, the standard is “a preponderance of evidence.” This means the plaintiff must present a case that leaves the judge with no doubt that they suffered PTSD or another form of mental anguish as a direct result of their motorcycle accident.
One of the most effective ways to prove mental anguish is to provide evidence of a recognized stress-related condition, such as PTSD. By law, the party that is being sued cannot bring up the plaintiff’s mental health condition. However, the plaintiff may voluntarily share medical records that demonstrate they developed PTSD following a traumatic accident.
The sufferer can use these records both to show that they have been diagnosed by a professional, and that their condition was serious enough to require ongoing treatment. Testimony from a doctor or mental health expert who specializes in PTSD can also help make a mental anguish case more compelling.
How much can I be compensated?
Because Louisiana residents cannot sue specifically for mental anguish, they must sue for personal injury, and make mental anguish an element of their overall case. This means that there are not specific amounts associated with mental anguish.
Instead, the court evaluates the impact of the plaintiff’s mental anguish during the phase of the trial where they consider damages. The court will likely look at a number of factors to determine damages, including:
- the severity of the accident
- the severity of the sufferer’s symptoms
- the duration of their symptoms
- who is at fault
Do I need a lawyer?
Suing for PTSD is complex, so it’s important to have a legal expert on your side who understands Louisiana’s personal injury laws and knows how to get results. In Baton Rouge, Pierce & Shows has the expertise to guide you through a PTSD-related personal injury lawsuit and help you get the compensation you deserve. For more information, contact our offices at Pierce & Shows today.