Bradley Charles, ‘Michigan’s Helter-Skelter Landscape of No-Fault PTSD Cases Belies Science’

Most Michigan cases, even in the past decade, agree with the century-old belief that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not real because there’s ‘nothing there that shows’. These outdated beliefs bely current, corroborated, and credible scientific studies about PTSD. In fact, one gets the sense while reading these cases that, those who have PTSD from auto accidents need an exorcism rather than competent medical care.

In order for a plaintiff with PTSD from a severe auto accident to recover noneconomic damages, they must prove that they suffered ‘serious impairment of body function’. It’s defined as ‘an objectively manifested impairment of an important body that affects the plaintiff’s general ability to lead a normal life’.

From the first no-fault PTSD case in 1979 to present day, almost every panel hearing these cases has held that a PTSD impairment cannot be ‘objectively manifested’ and does not affect an ‘important body function’. Yet, paradoxically, a couple of cases say that PTSD does satisfy these elements with the same evidence. This ‘arbitrary discretion’ has led to an inconsistent and contradictory no-fault landscape.

This article explains that landscape, supports the conclusion that PTSD can be a physical injury, and proposes amendments to codified law.

Charles, Bradley J, Michigan’s Helter-Skelter Landscape of No-Fault PTSD Cases Belies Science (2021). 36 West Michigan University Cooley Law Review 2021 at 23, Thomas M Cooley Law Review, volume 36, no 1, 2021.

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