When I started practicing a lot of defense attorneys—and even a lot of defense experts—thought that the term “somatic” was essentially a “get out of jail free” card.

Labeling something as “somatic” was a way for defense attorneys and experts to say: It’s all in the patient’s head.

And to a lot of people that meant that the injured person didn’t deserve to recover for what they experience. But that doesn’t hold water anymore.

Somatic Symptom Disorder causes people to fixate on physical symptoms like pain, weakness or shortness of breath to the point that they have problems functioning. The symptoms are real. But they can’t be addressed with treatments that would typically provide relief.

This is established medically. There’s no legitimate debate. No credible doctors will dispute it.

But how will a jury react? Jurors who believe in science are going to listen to the medical witnesses and understand. It’s worse to have somatic symptom disorder than residuals from the physical injury. That’s because it’s harder to treat.

But there’s always that possibility that the jury will have members who don’t believe in science. What about the jurors who think that the earth is flat, COVID is a hoax and that Global Warming is part of a liberal conspiracy?

Most of those jurors are going to be parents and grandparents. The majority of them are going to have a child or grandchild who—post pandemic—has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, depression, ADHD and/or been placed on the autism spectrum.

There are no blood tests or x-rays or CT scans that show what’s going on with the kids. But the parents and grandparents will know that the lives of the kids they care about are seriously affected by emotional and psychological impacts of these diseases.

Because of that experience they’re going to understand that even though something is “all in the plaintiff’s head” that the plaintiff deserves to recover for the quality of life they lost because of someone else’s negligence.

Rather than being a get out of jail free card, Somatic Symptom Disorder is going be a tiger the defense has by the tail. It can’t hold on. It can’t let go. And it’s probably not going to end well for the defense.

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