Lawsuit: Watching Online Videos Gave Me PTSD

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Injuries

Maybe mom was right and the internet really does rot your brain. A Tik Tok monitor who viewed and screened graphic videos says she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

According to court documents, content screeners watched up to ten videos simultaneously. Reviewers cannot look away from the screens except during designated break times, and the images these videos contain are often very “disturbing.” In response to the allegations, a Tik Tok spokesperson said the company works “to promote a caring working environment for our employees and contractors” and strives “to expand on a range of wellness services.”

This unusual lawsuit is not the first one of its kind. In 2020, Facebook, or whatever it’s called today, paid $52 million to settle moderator PTSD claims.

Injury-Related PTSD

This injury, which is normally associated with combat troops and emergency responders, is quite common among injury victims. About a fourth of car crash victims experience symptoms like:

  • Flashbacks,
  • Hypervigilance,
  • Depression,
  • Anger,
  • Nightmares, and
  • Loss of interest.

These symptoms, even if they are not very severe, make it almost impossible to function in everyday social, vocational, or educational situations.

Many dog bite victims experience PTSD as well. This effect is especially common among children younger than ten.

The Biology Behind PTSD

We weren’t being facetious with the above “rots your brain” comment. From a biological perspective, that’s exactly what happens.

For many years, doctors believed that PTSD was a processing disorder which randomly affected some people and had no biological basis. During the American Civil War, when soldiers displayed the aforementioned symptoms, doctors often said they had nostalgia. Basically, nostalgia is an advanced form of homesickness. 

These doctors thought they had the answer. According to them, participation in a vigorous offensive campaign would take their minds off their homesickness and cure the issue. Ironically, of course, a vigorous offensive campaign is probably what caused the brain injury in the first place.

Today, doctors know that exposure to extreme stress creates a chemical imbalance in the brain between the amygdala and the cerebral cortex. The amygdala controls emotional responses and the cerebral cortex controls logical responses.

Extreme stress exposure expands the amygdala and shrinks the cerebral cortex. So, these victims cannot react logically to events. Instead, they can only react emotionally.

Essentially, the amygdala is like an unbroken horse and the cerebral cortex is like a cowboy. The cowboy must hold the reins tightly to control the horse. If the cowboy’s grip lessens, the horse will run wild.

Researchers still aren’t sure about the specifics. But it appears that one extreme episode, like a car wreck or vicious attack, could cause this imbalance. Or, repetitive exposure to lesser trauma, like watching Tik Tok videos all day, could have the same effect.

Was the Company Negligent?

Usually, property owners, including employers, have a duty of reasonable care to provide safe environments for their workers. This high duty of care also applies in most social situations. In Kentucky, people are invitees if they have permission to be on the land and their presence actually or potentially benefits the owner economically or noneconomically. 

A lower duty of care applies in some situations. For example, if the victim was a guest of a hotel guest, the owner didn’t benefit. Therefore, the owner only had a duty to warn the victim about latent (hidden) hazards, like loose carpet.

Additionally, a Lexington personal injury attorney must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that the owner knew, or should have known, about the injury-causing hazard.

A preponderance of the evidence is one of the lowest standards in American law. Almost anything, including the previous Facebook settlement, could establish knowledge of the hazard.

If the victim/plaintiff proves negligence, damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Possible Defenses

The low burden of proof is usually a two-edged sword in injury claims. The victim/plaintiff’s negligence case is relatively easy to prove. Unfortunately for victims, the same standard usually applies to insurance company defenses. So, they are easy to prove as well.

Lack of causation is a very common defense in these claims. Any traumatic experience, such as being in a wreck or watching disturbing videos, could trigger PTSD. However, this defense is complex, mostly because of the eggshell skull rule.

Assume Maxine is a decorated Afghanistan veteran who was in several battles. WHen she comes home, she goes to work screening user-uploaded videos. Based on the above discussion about trauma and the brain, either her wartime experiences or her video-reviewing job could have caused the PTSD.

In terms of liability, the question is whether Maxine’s war experience was a cause or a pre-existing condition. If it caused her PTSD, she cannot blame her current employer for her mental condition. If her experience only made her more prone to PTSD, the insurance company cannot use that fact against her.

The bottom line is that you never know how much compensation you might be entitled to until a lawyer reviews your case and, if necessary, sends you to a doctor or another professional.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters. #goodelawyers