Martin Klug’s New Book Provides Important Insight
During a famous incident that occurred in Sicily during August 1943, General George S. Patton, in two separate incidents, slapped U.S. Army privates who were being treated for “combat fatigue” in Army evacuation hospitals. Patton, who had no medical degree, of course, did not understand the nuances of a medical condition whose status would remain ambiguous for decades. Combat fatigue is now known to be a type of post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), a broad, somewhat general medical condition that is still widely misunderstood—particularly from a legal standpoint. Martin A. Klug, a prominent Missouri trial lawyer, who has practiced for almost 30 years in the Greater St. Louis area, hopes to clear up some of the confusion with his recent book, Nailing Jello: Understanding the PTSD Claim [2016–09–05; available here on Amazon].
PTSD is Somewhat Malleable
Klug’s title, Nailing Jello, accurately describes the difficulty that members of our society—even so-called medical experts—have with PTSD. It wasn’t until 1980 that the American Psychiatric Association (“APA”) actually acknowedged its medical existence as a relatively common condition that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.
Klug argues that as PTSD reached “its 30s, it grew in girth and became enamored with its own self-importance.” PTSD is now among the leading claims for disability benefits filed by veterans. It outranks many other work injuries and occupational diseases. Klug posits that somewhat like autism, PTSD has become a national epidemic. Indeed, according to studies by the APA, roughly four percent of Americans suffer from the condition in any given year and almost one in ten of us will develop PTSD at some point in our life. Klug, whose legal practice is almost exclusively for employers, acknowledges that many PTSD claims are quite legitimate, but many others are not. He allows that what we’ve seen in recent years within the legal world is not so much a medical epidemic, but rather one involving problematic claims.
We Don’t Know as Much as We Think
According to Klug, popular culture creates and reinforces many false myths about PTSD symptoms, causes and recovery. Klug allows that what people “think they know about PTSD is often wrong.” Accordingly, litigation themes in claims and litigated cases often spring from PTSD myths generated in popular culture. Klug argues that it is one thing to understand PTSD as a medical disorder. In order to fully understand PTSD as a claim, however, one must also understand PTSD as a cultural myth.
Klug’s book strikes a difficult balance. It is worthwhile as a layperson’s aid, since it examines the early history of PTSD and common and uncommon ways to treat it. It dispells a number of urban legends regarding the condition and gives the layperson important insights into claims management and litigation. It’s a solid resource for claims reps and adjusters, in that it delves into potential strategies to manage the risk of PTSD claims. Several chapters address claim valuation. It’s also a legal resource. Klug offers insight into the role of forensic tools in PTSD claims and he includes a discussion of some common themes of PTSD claims in specific contexts such as employment discrimination, criminal cases, and police shootings.
Klug’s sense of humor surfaces at times. When discussing the interminable delays and hazards of court battles, he quips, “People who expect quick results from litigation confuse a court house with an ATM.” Near the end of his discussion, Klug adds that the entire legal process can be quite frustrating for claimant and employer alike: “This is the risk of playing with jello and nails: sometimes a thumb gets wacked with a hammer.”
I applaud Klug and his effort in Nailing Jello. The topic is important, current, and often discussed in all sorts of gatherings. As Klug argues, all too often, the PTSD discussion, particularly by non-medical folks, is more myth than truth. Klug certainly provides helpful insights from his perspective as a legal soldier on the front lines of the PTSD battleground.