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Review of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Contemporary Analysis (Koch H, Adeleye N, Willows J and Harrop C) - Hugh Koch

07/08/19. A recent article published in Expert Witness Journal discusses a contemporary analysis of medico-legal evidential issues in personal injury claims. PTSD is a contentious diagnosis as it raises many issues concerning reliability and validity for experts and the courts alike.

The authors cover the legal background to PTSD in the context of Tort Law. The diagnosis of PTSD was only formally included into the diagnostic system since 1980 and since then, several revisions of the key criteria have been made. There is a need for quality assurance measures within the medico-legal process to ensure that the rights of both litigants and insurers are protected. It is essential to corroborate claimant testimony with contemporaneous medical and occupational records to increase the reliability and validity of the eventual clinical expert opinion.

This paper summarises key pieces of case law where PTSD has been alluded to. It also summarises the main changes to the PTSD diagnostic criteria in DSM-5, and the legal decision-making tests employed by the Court to establish the ‘best-fit’ diagnosis in personal injury (psychological claims).

The diagnosis of PTSD and identifying valid and reliable opinions on causation and prognosis require that both lawyers and experts have a comprehensive and robust awareness of the range of possible opinions, the significance of both reliable and unreliable evidence and the complexity of pre-index event and post-event causation. Perhaps due to greater quantum implications of a PTSD diagnosis and narrative, greater care needs to be taken in assessing honesty, overstatement of difficulties and differentiating between when a claimant’s motive is to convince rather than deceive (Koch, 2018) and also where one aspect of a claim appears invalid or, in extremis, dishonest whereas other aspects are valid.


Koch HCH, Adeleye N, Willows J and Harrop C (2019) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – contemporary analysis of medico-legal evidential issues. Expert Witness Journal. Summer


Koch HCH, Mushati D and Francis A (2019) To convince or deceive? The analysis of reliable and realistic evidence. Legal Mind Case and Commentary no. 21. PIBULJ. July.

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