PTSD as evidence in proving liability

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The photograph here is of a gold justice scale with a somewhat orange background.

Justice Scales

Deirdre Smith, from the University of Maine School of Law, argues in a new paper in the Temple Law Review that evidence based on posttraumatic stress disorder should not be used as a key factor when determining liability claims.

The paper chronicles the history of PTSD and controversies regarding its scientific credibility, as well as it’s uniqueness as a medical diagnosis that requires a determination of causation: a practice more commonly associated with law than medicine.

As a result, Smith argues that PTSD is particularly susceptible to manipulation by lawyers because of the credibility given to psychiatrists when testifying about the effects of PTSD and their opinions regarding the cause of the particular mental illness.

“The line between law and medicine is not merely blurred in PTSD; it is absent,” Smith states.

As outlined by Smith in the paper, courts have expressed a wide range of opinions regarding the admissibility of PTSD as evidence.

“Many courts and legislatures have framed legal standards or requirements directly or indirectly around PTSD on the assumption that it represents an advancement in scientific understanding of the psychological impact of traumatic events,” he said. “A few courts, by contrast, have dismissed the diagnosis as a mere ‘human construct,’ using the term to signify that ‘PTSD’ is nothing more than a label.”

The views in this article do not represent the views of DisAbility Rights Galaxy. Papers highlighted in DisAbility Rights Galaxy’s Law Review section were picked for their ability to be thought provoking and promote further discussion of disability rights issues.