If you have witnessed a shocking accident, or had a loved one lose their lives as a result of someone else’s negligence, and have developed a recognised psychiatric illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of this taking place, then you may be able to make a claim for nervous shock.
A claim for nervous shock can arise if you have been at the scene of a crime or accident and have seen someone being killed, injured, or placed in a position of peril and have developed a recognised psychiatric injury.
In making an assessment of a claim for compensation for nervous shock, the court will need to find that the person responsible for the accident, for example an at-fault driver who caused the accident, could have foreseen that their actions might cause a person of normal fortitude to suffer psychiatric injury if care was not taken.
Gary is walking home from work when a truck runs a red light on the road next to him and hits a car that is going through the intersection. The car is being driven by his next door neighbour who has been picking up her two children from school. Gary is first on the scene, and is there administering first aid treatment until the ambulance arrives. Despite his best efforts, one of the children dies in his arms while the mother is unconscious in the car. Three weeks later Gary has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and cannot return to work.
In this instance the truck driver is the negligent at-fault party. It is reasonable that the truck driver might have someone like Gary in their contemplation as a party who might experience a psychiatric injury as a result of their negligent driving. That is to say, by running a red light they would be aware they might cause an accident which could injure people. The result of witnessing injuries of this nature might cause a psychiatric injury.c
In this case, Gary would be able to make a claim for nervous shock against the negligent truck driver and seek compensation for the pure psychiatric injury he has suffered.
In some cases you do not have to have directly seen an accident to be able to claim for nervous shock. This is particularly relevant when the nature of the relationship between the affected parties is considered.
Hazel and George have a son, Wayne. He has gone on a school camp hiking for four days. On the second day their son slips and falls over the edge of a cliff, suffering severe head injuries and being airlifted to hospital. He is badly disfigured by the accident. When his parents arrive at the hospital his father is so badly affected by the injuries that he goes into a state of shock and develops a depressive disorder.
In a case such as this, George would be able to make a claim for nervous shock against a negligent party who failed to take due care of his son. This claim would be able to proceed due to the close relationship between parent and child, and the fact that a claim of this nature would not open the floodgates of people seeking to claim for a range of types of psychiatric injury.
When being treated in hospital it is reasonable to expect that the manner and level of care that your loved ones receive is provided with due care and expertise. If your loved ones have been injured or have died as a result of negligent care you may be able to seek compensation for nervous shock.
Grace attended hospital after a referral from her doctor for a lung condition and dysfunction. She was treated at the same hospital she had been treated numerous times before, and then despite the serious nature of her condition she was discharged. The following day her husband found her cold and unresponsive. She was later pronounced dead. Her family sought compensation for the nervous shock experienced due to the negligence of the hospital and the deeply upsetting nature of her treatable death.
Hospitals and medical professionals have a duty of care to practice with skill and to take due care in treatment and diagnosis. Sometimes, the negligence of a medical professional will result in deeply upsetting and traumatic events taking place, the result of which may be psychiatric injury.
When considering a claim for nervous shock the court will take a range of factors into consideration. The court will consider:
● The relationship which exists between the parties, with the consideration that a close relationship will likely result in a greater impact on the party who has witnessed/experienced the distress.
● The level of control the vulnerable party (the person who has suffered the psychiatric injury) had over the incident taking place and how they would be affected by it.
● Whether there is a risk of indeterminate liability arising as a result of a claim.
Smith’s Lawyers are experienced in working with people who are considering making a claim for compensation due to nervous shock. If you have developed a psychiatric injury as a result of trauma due to someone else’s negligence then it may be possible for you to claim.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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