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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) is a real malady recognized by the medical community and affecting thousands of people of all ages worldwide. In the United States PTSD affects an average 58 out of every 100,000 people. Emotional injuries associated with war and other traumatic experiences had been recognized as early as the 6th century B.C. In the early 19th Century military medical doctors started diagnosing soldiers with “exhaustion” after the stress of battle. The term Post Traumatic Disorder was coined in the mid 1970’s and the condition was added to the DSM-III as a formal diagnosis shortly thereafter.
A diagnosis of PTSD requires: A) exposure to a traumatic event. The event must involve both a loss of physical integrity or risk of serious injury or death, to self or others and a response to the event that involved intense fear, horror or helplessness. B) Persistent re-experiencing of the event. Examples include flashback memories and recurring distressing dreams. C) Persistent avoidance and emotional numbing. D) Persistent symptoms of increased arousal not present before. Examples include difficulty falling asleep, increased startle response, and hypervigilance. E) Symptoms lasting longer than 1 month; and F) Significant impairment.
Depression is significantly more prevalent than PTSD and is generally divided into a diagnosis of mild or major. While depression can be feeling down, blue, unhappy, unmotivated or otherwise negative; true depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer.
Offshore workers involved in or exposed to traumatic events are susceptible to PTSD and depression. Depression also often stems from the loss of career and day to day unhappiness that is related to physical injury.
Under the maritime law and the Jones Act a seaman suffering an emotional injury such as depression or PTSD is generally entitled to recover from a negligent employer or ship owner whose negligence caused the condition. A review of the case law reveals cases as diverse as seaman witnessing the death of a co-worker, witnessing significant physical injury to others to numerous cases in which the seaman was the person injured. A specific example includes a seaman “who felt the heat of a fire, inhaled the fumes from a fire and suffered multiple bruises”.
The law generally requires that the maritime worker be within the “zone of danger” created by an event in order to recover for an emotional injury stemming from that event. An individual injured physically is obviously within the zone of danger. A bystander to an event may be within the zone of danger dependent on the type of event.
Recent Courts have relaxed the zone of danger test to allow recovery for seaman and other offshore workers who witnessed the death of a co-worker but were not themselves within the zone of danger.
Delise and Hall have successfully litigated numerous cases involving emotional/mental injuries and have recovered millions of dollars for the seamen they represent. When the emotional injury is accompanied by a physical injury the seaman is entitled to recover for the pain and suffering, medical cost and wage loss, all both past and future for both the emotional injury and the physical injury.
Seaman suffering emotional injuries are often also entitled to recover maintenance (a daily living per diem) and cure (costs of medical treatment and counseling). The seaman is due maintenance and cure even in the absence of employer negligence if they can show simply that the condition manifested itself while in the service of the vessel. This does not necessarily mean that the seaman had to be at sea. An offshore worker at home on call will often meet the requirement of being “in the service of the vessel”.
It is normal to be reluctant to discuss feelings of anxiety, depression or other emotional symptoms. We are experienced in dealing with this delicate subject and all consultations are strictly confidential.
Delise and Hall enjoys strong working relationships with some of the world’s leading psychiatrists and psychologists and in addition to handling your legal case can assist in obtaining the treatment you may need.
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