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Panic Attack: An Element of Damages

Panic Attack: An Element of Damages

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Kelsey Dorsey looked into the rear-view window of her car to see a tractor trailer barreling toward her car. Kelsey was stopped at a red light. She could not get out of the truck’s way and ended up being hit from behind and pushed into the car in front of her.

Kelsey’s personal injury attorney asked a legal nurse consultant to summarize her records to describe the injuries Kelsey suffered during the crash. In addition to Kelsey’s back and leg injuries, she suffered panic attacks after she was in the motor vehicle crash.

A panic attack is a sudden feeling of great anxiety and fear. Kelsey had these symptoms:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Felt like she was being smothered
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Felt like she was choking
  • Had hot flashes
  • Felt like she was detached and floating
  • Sweating
  • Feared she was losing control and going crazy

Kelsey began having these panic attack episodes on a regular basis and was reluctant to leave her house. She did not want to get into a car; she could not return to work.

The frequency of her panic attacks leads to a diagnosis of panic disorder. Her panic disorder crippled the quality of her life.

Her husband began to get impatient with her and insist she force herself to resume driving and working. As her stress level rose, so did the frequency of her panic attacks.

Kelsey’s physician knew that panic attacks can be caused by thyroid or heart problems (mitral valve prolapse) or low blood sugar. She ordered blood tests and an EKG to rule these out and referred Kelsey to a counselor for psychotherapy.

The physician advised Kelsey to avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can trigger panic attacks in some people. The counselor taught Kelsey how to use deep breathing, meditation, and yoga to cope with her stress and lessen some of her panic attack symptoms. The counselor also educated Kelsey’s husband about the nature of her attacks and how to support his wife instead of berating her.

Attorneys may handle cases involving people who develop panic attacks as a result of stress, an accident, sexual assault, or the death or serious illness of a loved one.

Attorneys turn to us for help with interpreting the medical records. As legal nurse consultants, we summarize medical records to define the damages. We analyze the records to help the attorney understand the damages that are causally linked to the incident. Contact us today to help with your next personal injury case.

Med League provides medical expert witnesses to trial lawyers. Please call us at (908)788-8227 or contact us today to discuss your next case.

Kelsey is a composite of several people. Refer to Panic Attacks, Nursing 2013, December 2013, page 36 for more information.

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