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COSTA CONCORDIA Passenger Claims

An article in the Miami Herald discussed lawsuits being instituted in behalf of passengers aboard the COSTA CONCORDIA. Two New York lawfirms claim to be representing “hundreds” of passengers.

The shipowner has offerred 11,000 euros, or about $14,500, to settle claims by the 3,206 passengers who were not physically injured. It has been noted that the settlements would total about $46 million, or 12 days of projected Carnival Cruise profits for 2012.

The Miami Herald article reports that maritime plaintiff lawyers in Miami and Los Angeles have valued the claims in the range of $60,000 to $100,000.

Both the shipowner and the lawyers treat the claims as if there were coupons. They are not. Claims for psychological damages suffered by passengers are based upon the experience of the individual person and the consequences in terms of emotional pain and suffering.

It is likely many passengers will suffer the effects of post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). The nature and extent of this condition cannot be immediately known. No passenger should consider final settlement of his or her claim unless and until the emotional effects, which may be latent, are evaluated by a professional.

PTSD is a well established medical condition. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Text Revisions (DSM–IV-TR) states:

The essential feature of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate (Criterion A1). The person’s response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior) (Criterion A2). The characteristic symptoms resulting from the exposure to the extreme trauma include persistent reexperiencing of the traumatic event (Criterion B), persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (Criterion C), and persistent symptoms of increased arousal (Criterion D). The full symptom picture must be present for more than 1 month (Criterion E), and the disturbance must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (Criterion F). DSM–IV-TR, p.463. [Emphasis supplied.]

The manual goes on to discuss the various symptoms of PTSD, including flashbacks, avoidance, sense of foreshortened future, anxiety, sleeplessness, recurrent nightmares, outbursts of anger, as well as painful guilt feelings about surviving when others did not survive.

Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within the first three months after the trauma, although there may be a delay of months, or even years, before symptoms appear. DSM–IV-TR, p.466.

According to the National Center for PTSD, an agency of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, symptoms of PTSD may come and go over many years. About half (40% – 60%) of people who develop PTSD get better at some time. But about one out of three people who develop PTSD will always have symptoms.

As stated by the National Center for PTSD:

Symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be terrifying. They may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. It may be hard just to get through the day.

It is to be hoped that only a small percentage of the passengers who survived the wreck of the COSTA CONCORDIA will suffer from full-blown PTSD. But it would be naive for anyone who survived the ordeal to discount the possibility of emotional consequences.

The lawfirm of Anderson, Connell & Carey has represented survivors of shipwrecks who have suffered psychological effects and have been compensated accordingly. In one case, the recovery for PTSD exceeded $1,000,000. In most cases, the effects are not so profound as to warrant an award of that magnitude, but the condition can be serious and the suffering profound.

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