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Psychiatric Injuries in Personal Injury Claims

View profile for Stuart Andrews
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Most personal injury claims involve physical injuries such as soft tissue injuries, broken bones, scarring, head injuries and other obvious and visible injuries. But what about the injuries which we are unable to see?

Provided medical evidence supports the same, there is usually no problem in recovering compensation for psychiatric or psychological injury, where physical injuries have also been sustained, but what if an incident has caused psychiatric injury alone?

Claims for psychiatric illness are similar to physical injury claims in that the psychiatric illness must be as a result of the breach of duty and/or negligent actions of someone else and (provided the Claimant does not lack mental capacity as defined by the Mental Capacity Act 2005) proceedings must be issued:

  1. Within three years of the date of the accident or in some cases of the date that the Claimant became aware that they suffered injury.
  2. If the Claimant was under 18 at the time of the accident, within 3 years of the date of their 18th birthday.

In  McLoughlin v O’Brian, Lord Bridge set out that to succeed with a stand-alone psychiatric injury claim, one must be able to establish that the Claimant is suffering from “not merely grief, distress or any other normal emotion, but a positive psychiatric illness”.

In simple terms this means that the Claimant must be suffering from a recognised and diagnosable psychiatric condition which stems from the accident.  A significant proportion of Claimants who claim damages for psychiatric illness have, for example, suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) however, there are other conditions such as Anxiety and Adjustment Disorders which may meet these criteria.  Symptoms from such conditions may include low mood, low self-esteem, fatigue, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating and increased irritability.  The key issue, however, is that these symptoms must arise from a psychiatric condition diagnosed by an appropriate medical professional.   

Our specialist lawyers here at Bell Lax will arrange an appointment for you to have an assessment with a Consultant Psychiatrist, who will prepare a report which will cover the circumstances of the incident, confirmation of whether you have suffered a recognised psychiatric disorder as a result of it and how long it is expected to take for you to make a full recovery from the same (prognosis).  They will also deal with any effects on your relationships at home, at work, on your employment and any treatment recommendations.

Whilst it can be difficult to prove the cause of any psychiatric injury, at Bell Lax we believe that the importance placed on psychiatric injuries should not be any less than that of a physical injury. 

If you or a loved one has suffered from a psychiatric injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, call one of our specialists on 0121 355 0011 to discuss making a claim for compensation, which may also help you with the recovery from and management of the psychiatric condition.