Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Role of the Forensic Psychiatrist – A Legal Perspective

Accidents can have a devastating impact on everyone involved in them, whether they’re drivers, co-passengers, pedestrians or other road-users who have been directly or indirectly harmed or injured in the event. The first priority is, naturally, to ensure that the injured are given emergency medical treatment and that their lives are safe-guarded by qualified and experienced medical professionals. The police and traffic authorities have a duty to investigate the accident and file a report citing their findings. Concurrently, insurance companies representing all parties involved must also conduct their investigations and assess the damages that have to be paid out.

It’s a sad truth, but accidents are rarely random events. They’re caused by someone’s fault or negligence. Those who have been injured are entitled to compensation from those responsible for the accident and you need to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Putting a valid claim together is a job for experienced personal injury lawyer who works with a team of specialists. These would include car-crash specialists, engineers, product designers, medical experts, eye-witnesses etc. One of these could include a forensic psychiatrist whose inputs can be valuable while calculating the mental and emotional damage suffered by the accident victim, especially when they experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


This branch of criminal psychiatry bridges the gap between law and psychiatry. Forensic psychiatrists work with courts to certify a witness’s competency and mental state to stand trial or they are often called as witnesses in civil cases as expert witnesses to provide an opinion on a specific issue. They supply an independent opinion used in forming a final judgment, or to determine the extent of damages when two parties are in dispute and undertake a process of negotiated settlement. They can also provide an assessment of the individual’s state of mind when the event in question happened and whether there was deliberate intent or not in causing the accident or crime. Forensic psychiatrists have the specialized knowledge and experience to clarify issues raised by the legal system.

They can testify in cases of medical malpractice, conduct an evaluation of the informed consent process, evaluate and testify in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder to determine the extent of emotional harm caused to victims of catastrophic events. Other services provided by them include witness evaluation and preparation, jury selection, client management and establishing credibility of witnesses.

There is a considerable amount of work being done in Ontario and British Columbia that involves forensic psychiatry in the field of risk management, where it is used to provide structured professional judgments about a person’s behavior, attitudes, impulsiveness, family/social ties, etc.

Our EXPERIENCED PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS can use these evaluations to establish the chain of responsibility in personal injury cases.


When people are exposed to traumatic events, they may suffer a variety of distressing symptoms that prevent them from functioning normally. These include physical, emotional, cognitive and mental symptoms, differing from person to person. PTSD is generally diagnosed if it arises within six months of an intensely traumatic event.

Symptoms include:

  • Intrusive, distressing memories of the event
  • Vivid flashbacks
  • Intense distress when reminded of the event
  • Intense physical reactions like increased heartbeat, nausea, muscular tension, breathing difficulties, sweating etc
  • Avoidance of places, people and other reminders
  • Inability to talk about or remember details connected with the event
  • Loss of interest and feelings of detachment
  • Sleep disorders
  • Irritability
  • Concentration problems
  • Intense guilt/self-blame/survivor guilt
  • Depression
  • Dependence on alcohol/drugs/religion
  • Suicidal thoughts

In children PTSD manifests in regressive behaviors like thumb-sucking, loss of toilet control, acting out, expressing themselves in role-play, drawings etc, aggression, somber moods etc.

PTSD is one syndrome that has had greatest impact on the law, since it posits the concept of external events having an effect on the internal state of mind.


It is the job of forensic psychiatrists to conduct tests, interviews and examinations to evaluate the person who has suffered injury and conclude whether they are suffering from PTSD. The risk of feigned or false PTSD is ever present and insurance companies of the at-fault party would attempt to deny, dismiss or minimize claims of PTSD. Our CAR ACCIDENT LAWYERS are well-versed with these processes and can ensure that the victim’s interests are safe-guarded.

Our IMMEDIATE INJURY LAWYERS AVAILABLE 24×7 can enlist the services of a reputed, experienced, qualified forensic psychiatrist to provide the necessary professional opinion when you/a loved one experience symptoms of PTSD following a traumatic accident. 

If you, your family or a friend has been injured in an accident, please feel free to speak to one of our injury lawyers for a free consultation about how we are able to assist in making a personal injury claim. We consult in all cities across Ontario with a no win no fee guarantee. Our personal injury lawyers have helped victims secure millions of dollars in personal injury cases. CALL US TOLL FREE ON OUR 24/7 INJURY HOTLINE: 1 – 844 495 7333 OR TEXT A PERSONAL INJURY ‎LAWYER 24/7 AND GET INSTANT HELP.TM (416 931 5015)