Mind Your Claim

It isn’t a matter of contention that the prevalence of mental health illnesses in Northern Ireland is at unacceptable level. The collapse of the Stormont Executive has meant that urgent reforms to the system and the introduction of a publicly recruited “Mental Health Champion” to oversee and drive on these reforms have been in abeyance for the last 2 years.  Most recently it has shockingly been reported that 1 in 10 of our schoolchildren, a demographic one would assume to epitomise vitality and good health, has a diagnosable mental illness.

As specialist personal injury lawyers, we are always mindful and respectful of peoples’ vulnerabilities. We ensure that we advise prospective and existing clients that, in addition to pursuing claims for physical injury, there is recourse to claim compensation for any psychological trauma that has arisen due to the experience of a traumatic event caused by someone else’s negligence.

Examples of such events may be a road traffic or industrial accident, or a criminal assault.  The type of injury sustained clearly varies depending on the incident and person, but common diagnoses in our experience comprise some very serious conditions such as PTSD, Depression, Anxiety and Adjustment Disorders. People with pre-existing mental illnesses which have been aggravated by the traumatic incident are also entitled to pursue damages.

A compensation claim for mental injury will usually be accompanied by one for physical injury, however, this is not mandatory. A claim can be made solely for psychological trauma so long as the subject incident posed a threat of physical injury from which the trauma arose. For example, if a person, by way of some good fortune, evaded serious physical injury in a vehicle collision with an articulated lorry but developed an anxiety disorder for a period following the incident, this could be compensated.

Usually the person must have been directly involved in the incident in which the trauma arose in order to have a valid claim, but this is not always the case.  It is possible in some situations for a person who witnessed a close relative suffer a traumatic incident caused by negligence, and consequently suffered mental injury, to make a claim provided he/she was at the scene of the incident or immediate aftermath. This person is referred to as a secondary victim but such cases are more difficulty to prove.

In addition to general damages for psychiatric trauma, the recovery of consequential losses such as therapy costs or loss or earnings is permitted.

Whilst it is hard to objectively compare the extent of suffering between physical and psychiatric injury, it is generally observed in less serious cases that the level of damages awarded for the latter are lower. This is arguably in need of revision.  The welcome increase in public candour on mental health problems and experiences would suggest that symptoms can often be just as debilitating as physical injuries.

In MTB, we take a holistic approach when exploring and proving the extent of client injuries in order to achieve the best possible outcome for them. We have access to a network of leading doctors across a vast variety of specialities. In each case we appoint the appropriate expert or experts to examine our clients and report on every aspect of their pain and suffering.

If you require specialist advice from personal injury experts, contact us immediately on 02890 329801.