Can Medical Malpractice Cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

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As patients, we put our trust in physicians, surgeons, and other health care providers who have taken an oath to treat patients to the best of their ability, and to do no harm. Although medical professionals are human and capable of making mistakes, this can be extremely traumatizing if you suffer a serious injury, infection, or other health complication as a result of the medical error. When the injury is a result of medical negligence, you may struggle with severe emotional distress in addition to the pain and discomfort associated with the physical injury. In extreme cases, you may exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Oftentimes, people do not realize that they may be eligible for significant financial compensation by filing a medical malpractice claim for PTSD.  A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will thoroughly review your case and recommend the best legal course of action.

What Are Common Symptoms of PTSD?

Most people associate PTSD with soldiers who witnessed horrific events while serving in war zones. Although it is common for military personnel to suffer from PTSD, anyone who has experienced or been exposed to a traumatic event can develop PTSD. Depending on the severity of the condition, individuals can continue to suffer from PTSD for months and even years if they do not get the necessary treatment to address the trauma and treat the symptoms. In order to be treated for PTSD, a skilled medical professional must examine the patient and determine whether they are suffering from PTSD based on the symptoms they are experiencing. The following are examples of common symptoms of PTSD, which can range from mild to severe:

  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Guilt
  • Hostility
  • Hypervigilance
  • Insomnia
  • Loneliness
  • Nightmares
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Severe anxiety

What Are Examples of Medical Negligence that Can Cause PTSD?

When a health care provider makes a medical mistake that is considered negligent, this can be extremely traumatic for patients. For example, if you have been placed under general anesthesia for a surgical procedure and the anesthesiologist fails to administer the appropriate amount of medication, you could start to wake up during the surgical procedure. This can be extremely traumatic, particularly if you start to feel pain but are not yet able to move or talk. Another common example of medical malpractice that can cause PTSD is if a physician performs surgery on the wrong body part. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, surgeons operate on the wrong body part up to 40 times per week in this country. 

Other examples of negligent behavior that can cause patients to suffer mental and emotional trauma and lead to PTSD include medication errors, failure to diagnose an illness or injury, leaving a foreign object inside the body, and birth injuries. If a physician fails to diagnose an illness or disease, it may progress and become difficult, if not impossible, to treat, which can be extremely traumatic. Leaving a surgical instrument inside your body can increase the risk of a serious infection and require another surgery to remove the instrument. Birth injuries can also cause the mother to suffer serious emotional trauma, particularly if a medical mistake affects the health of the baby.  

How Do I Prove that My PTSD Was Caused by Medical Malpractice?

Any time you experience a life-altering or traumatic incident, it can cause a range of physical and emotional effects. However, when the incident that caused the injury or trauma was the result of recklessness, carelessness, or negligence at the hands of your health care provider, this is particularly devastating. If you are suffering from PTSD and are unable to work, this can be financially devastating, particularly if you are undergoing medical treatment for the condition. Fortunately, you may be eligible for financial compensation by filing a medical malpractice claim. To reach a successful claims outcome and collect the financial compensation for which you are entitled, you must be able to prove the following factors:

  • You suffered a psychological injury. You can prove this element by providing an official diagnosis from a medical professional such as an experienced therapist or psychiatrist.  
  • There was a specific traumatic event that triggered the PTSD. You will need to provide as much evidence as possible to prove your claim, including medical records and witness testimonies.
  • You suffered financial losses associated with the PTSD diagnosis and treatment. You will be more likely to recover financial damages if you can provide tangible proof of your losses. 

How Important Are Expert Witnesses in a PTSD Claim?

Since PTSD is not a physical injury that you can see, it can be more challenging to prove that the disorder was caused by medical negligence. In fact, it is unlikely that you will reach a successful claims outcome without the testimony of an expert witness. Juries generally do not possess the medical knowledge to determine whether certain symptoms are associated with PTSD. In addition, insurers may not take the claim as seriously if you do not have the testimony of an expert witness to support your claim. In fact, insurance companies may hire their own expert witnesses to review the claim and try to convince the court that you are not suffering from PTSD, or that it is not caused by medical malpractice. Prior to testifying, the expert witness will be required to establish his or her qualifications and discuss the process of diagnosing your condition. 

A fact witness may also be called to provide additional details about why you have been diagnosed with PTSD. Fact witnesses are usually doctors and therapists who have treated you and have personal knowledge of your condition. In some cases, your personal physician or therapist may serve as both an expert witness and a fact witness if he or she meets the required qualifications. Otherwise, the expert witness and the fact witness will be two different individuals. An expert witness may be asked if he or she believes that you suffer from PTSD. However, some states do not allow expert or fact witnesses to provide their opinion about whether you are suffering from PTSD. The jury is expected to make that determination based on the evidence provided.

What Damages May I Receive in a PTSD Lawsuit?

Seeking financial compensation for PTSD can be challenging, since the non-economic damages associated with emotional trauma can be difficult to calculate. Because there is no set formula to establish that amount, the following factors will be considered:

  • How the malpractice affected your personal health and well-being, including emotional pain and suffering and PTSD
  • How your PTSD is preventing you from being able to work and accomplish other daily activities
  • What other physical and emotional needs must be met in the future

Treatment for PTSD can be very expensive, particularly if you require ongoing treatment, medication, and therapy. Depending on the severity of the PTSD, you may suffer from a range of symptoms for months or even years. A successful medical malpractice claim will ensure that you receive financial compensation for all medical expenses associated with your condition, lost wages if your PTSD prevents you from being able to return to work, rehabilitation costs, therapy costs, and pain and suffering you experience from the trauma. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will assist you with every step of the claims process and secure the appropriate financial compensation. 

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help Me?

Any time you have been injured, or your health has been compromised in any way, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. When you are pursuing a claim for PTSD, it is even more important that you have a skilled legal professional on your side who understands the unique challenges associated with these types of cases and will work closely with you to gain a thorough understanding of the trauma that caused your PTSD, and ensure that you receive the compensation for which you are entitled. He or she will determine whether negligence was a factor and hold the liable party responsible for their actions. In addition to obtaining copies of your medical records and the results of any psychological tests that were performed, a medical malpractice lawyer will speak to nurses, physicians, and other medical professionals that can provide a statement and arrange for expert and factual witnesses.  

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Patients Suffering from PTSD

If you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD after receiving negligent medical care from a health care provider, it is in your best interest to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. We understand that medical errors that are the result of negligence can be extremely traumatizing and lead to PTSD. We will thoroughly examine the details of your case, determine who is responsible for the negligent behavior, and assist you with every step of the claims process. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.