Some psychological injuries are so severe that they can be as disabling as serious physical injuries. When a careless or reckless act caused intense trauma, special arrangements must be made when pursuing a lawsuit. This concept originated with “collaborative divorce,” where a psychologist becomes part of the team so that settlement discussions can stay on track. With lawsuits that involved extremely traumatic events, this formula can also be applied, and a lawsuit for psychological injuries can be brought.
Of course, any accident is traumatic. Fearing for your life when you are hit by a car or slipping on water and breaking your leg are “traumatic events,”, but these accidents do not shatter the core of your being and cause you to think less of yourself. In the landmark case of “Brown vs. Board of Education,” school segregation was ended by the Supreme Court based on studies that showed that it was injurious to the self-esteem of African-American children, who believed that “white dolls” were prettier than “black dolls.” The entire decision was based on the concept that a law could be struck down based on psychological injuries to self-esteem!
The most traumatic lawsuits are for “Wrongful Birth.” In these actions, parents are alleging that their child should never have been born, and, in addition to the cost care, they have suffered from severe psychological injuries due to their conflict about the situation. Usually, it is alleged that due to a failure to offer genetic testing or improper genetic testing procedures, a baby was born from a pregnancy that should have been terminated. Pro-lifers and disability advocates united to oppose these lawsuits, but for the parents of severely disabled children, the extraordinary expenses and demands on their time that reduce income, propel them to pursue compensation. There is also trauma born from conflict of “loving” and child that you would prefer was never born, and having your whole life now revolves around their care.
Another extremely traumatic lawsuit is for “False Arrest.” Imagine you are on your way to work or going out the movies, and suddenly you see police officers heading in your direction. Next thing you know, you are handcuffed in the back of a police car and then sitting in a jail cell. You are held for days until the charges are dropped. It turns out that you fit the vague description of a wanted criminal. Most commonly, it is because you are young, male and African-American or Latino. You are released “unharmed,” but will you ever feel comfortable walking down the street again knowing that you “look like a criminal?” Psychological injuries are usually the main harmed claimed for these cases.
These examples are illustrative of cases where a collaborative approach between attorneys and mental health practitioners can be most helpful for the victims. There is, of course, the ethical dilemma for attorneys, the better the client heals, the less their case for money damages is worth, but that attorneys that use the collaborative approach, commit to putting the client’s recovery first. This is advantageous because the client is better able to testify to their psychological injuries with appropriate support, and the records of the treating mental health practitioner, provide excellent evidence at trial.
It is empowering to know that there is legal recourse when somebody’s careless or recklessness turns your life upside down. These cases must be handled by experienced attorneys and mental health practitioners so that the lawsuit itself does not generate further trauma, making the condition worse. These cases are not for personal injury attorneys that want to churn out easy cases, as there is a serious commitment required to the individual and their family. If you have been a victim of negligence or a crime, and have suffered from psychological injuries, please call us for a consultation.