When a sexual assault occurs, a victim’s life can become permanently changed. In addition to physical injuries, victims can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault may be entitled to compensation for damages caused by the assault, including compensation for the emotional distress caused by PTSD.
If you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD after surviving sexual assault, you must understand your legal rights and options. The compassionate personal injury attorneys at Rochelle McCullough, LLP are prepared to answer any questions and help you understand your legal options.
The Symptoms of PTSD Caused By Sexual Assault
Sexual assault causes multiple PTSD symptoms, including fear, anger, anxiety, and sadness. Survivors may experience avoidance, hyper-vigilance, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and other symptoms caused by the assault. The best treatments for PTSD are a combination of professional therapy and psychiatric medications. These symptoms can occur for months, years, or even decades.
While there are multiple options for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, determining which medication will work is often a “trial and error” process. The same principle applies to different types of therapy. Sometimes, therapy and medication may not provide enough relief for a patient to continue working.
Can I Sue for PTSD?
The answer is yes, especially if you developed PTSD due to another person’s negligent or intentional behavior. If you’ve survived sexual harassment, abuse, or assault, the dedicated personal injury attorneys at Rochelle McCullough, LLP are prepared to advise you of the viability of your emotional distress claim. We can also develop the best legal strategy possible for recovering the compensation you deserve.
Survivors of sexual assault may be able to pursue a claim for emotional distress or a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. These two legal claims are different, and a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is usually more complicated to prove. To succeed in a lawsuit for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- The defendant’s conduct must have been horrific or outrageous
- The defendant must have had the intention to cause severe emotional distress on the victim
- The defendant directly caused severe emotional harm to the victim
In legal claims alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress due to sexual assault, the question of whether the act was horrific or outrageous is often straightforward. Many courts have ruled that experiencing sexual assault is sufficiently horrific or outrageous to prove the first element of the claim.
Proving Emotional Distress in a Sexual Assault Case
It’s much more difficult to prove that emotional distress has occurred due to sexual assault than to prove that sexual assault caused a physical injury. Pursuing a legal claim for emotional distress can be more challenging than pursuing compensation for a physical injury. There are no physical diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or MRIs that can prove a patient has been diagnosed with PTSD. Although mental health conditions like PTSD are often considered “invisible,” that doesn’t mean they are less serious.
What Are the Elements That Must Be Proven in a Sexual Assault Lawsuit?
When pursuing a claim for compensation for PTSD caused by sexual assault, you will need to be able to show the duration of your emotional distress. Specifically, you’ll need to show that the emotional distress caused by your PTSD symptoms has been occurring for a long time following the sexual assault.
You’ll also need to prove the severity of the emotional distress you’re experiencing. Some amount of emotional distress is typical after experiencing a traumatic event. However, when your emotional distress prevents you from being able to function daily due to your trauma, you may be able to obtain greater compensation. It’s important to keep all of your medical records and information about treatment for PTSD.
The Severity of Your Emotional Distress
Your attorney can work with you to help you gather records showing your diagnosis. You may want to consider keeping a journal and writing down all of the ways your PTSD has affected your day-to-day life. Write down the days you’ve had to take off work and the activities you once loved that you can no longer engage in.
If you require intensive mental health therapy and medication to engage in daily functions, or you are unable to eat due to severe mental suffering, you can pursue compensation. Your attorney can also help you prove the severity of the sexual assault that caused you to develop PTSD. Statements from your loved ones, witness statements from medical professionals, and your medical records can help you demonstrate the severity of your emotional distress.
Available Damages for Emotional Distress
Damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering are common claims in personal injury lawsuits. Damages for emotional distress are generally considered non-economic damages because it’s difficult to easily quantify them monetarily. Economic damages are easier to quantify and include the cost of current and future medical treatment, lost income, loss of earning capacity, and other damages. The following types of damages are available in civil lawsuits for emotional distress:
- Past and future mental health therapy expenses
- Past and future medical expenses from mental health-related hospitalizations and psychiatric medications
- Lost wages when a PTSD diagnosis prevents you from continuing to work
- Loss of earning capacity when PTSD prevents you from working at the same job before the traumatic accident
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium when your PTSD diagnosis creates marital strain
Discuss Your Claim with Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers in Dallas & Arkansas
If you’ve suffered emotional distress due to sexual assault, including developing PTSD, you may have the right to pursue compensation through a civil lawsuit. It’s important to work with an experienced legal team with extensive knowledge of personal injury law.
The team at Rochelle McCullough, LLP understands that while PTSD may be considered an “invisible injury,” it can be just as painful as other physical injuries. Contact Rochelle McCullough, LLP to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation and learn more about your legal rights.
We extend our personal injury legal services to help clients with PTSD after a sexual assault throughout Texas, including Dallas, & Fort Worth, as well as in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We are committed to advocating for your rights and securing the compensation you deserve.