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Guidance Around Bringing a Psychiatric Injury Claim

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A person in psychiatric distress
Psychiatric injuries can be as equally devastating as physical injuries and, in certain circumstances, may have far longer-term consequences. The family of the injured party also must endure seeing the person they love deal with debilitating conditions such as depression, anxiety, and inability to cope with everyday tasks. The suffering endured by the injured party and their family is compounded when the injury is directly caused by a negligent third party. A desire to bring that negligent party to justice, and to win compensation for the pain and suffering, can be overwhelming. If you, or a member of your family, has suffered a psychiatric injury and you believe someone else to be at fault, you may find the following guidance useful in starting the process of bringing a claim.

How do psychiatric injury claims differ from physical injury compensation cases?

Psychiatric injury claims differ from physical injury compensation cases in several different ways. The key differences can be summarised as follows.
  • The nature of the injury – Psychiatric injuries are mental or emotional injuries resulting from traumatic events, such as witnessing a serious accident or being subjected to harassment and bullying in the workplace. Physical injuries, on the other hand, are bodily injuries resulting from an accident or incident. In some personal injury claims cases, both psychological and physical pain and suffering may be considered when awarding general damages.
  • The diagnosis of the injury – Psychiatric injuries can be difficult to diagnose, and symptoms may not appear until many weeks or even months after the traumatic event. Physical injuries are usually more straightforward to diagnose, and symptoms are often immediately apparent.
  • The treatment of the injury – Psychiatric injuries often require ongoing therapy and medication, while physical injuries may require surgery, rehabilitation, or physical therapy. With physical injuries, it can be easier to determine how long it will take to recover, whereas psychological injuries may require an indeterminate level of ongoing therapy.
  • The amount of compensation for the injury – Some types of physical injuries may have a very short recovery time and will therefore pay out a lower compensation award in general damages. Many psychological injuries can have a significant long-term impact, therefore the award may be substantially higher. Take a look at the Judicial Council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines for further information on this.
In general, psychiatric injury claims can be more complex and challenging to pursue than physical injury compensation cases due to the nature of the injury and the difficulties involved in proving the extent of emotional distress suffered by the victim.

How difficult is it to bring a psychiatric injury compensation claim?

Bringing a psychiatric injury claim can be very challenging and may require the support of a partner or close family member to assist with the process, particularly if the injured party is so significantly affected by the injury they sustained. One of the biggest challenges in bringing a psychiatric injury claim is in demonstrating that the injury was caused by the negligent party. In many cases, it can be difficult to prove that the traumatic event was the main cause of the psychiatric injury. This is particularly the case when the victim has a pre-existing mental health condition, or if there are multiple possible causes for the condition. Another challenge is obtaining appropriate medical evidence to support the claim. Psychiatric injuries can be difficult to diagnose, and the symptoms may not appear until long after the traumatic event. In addition, medical experts may have differing opinions about the nature and extent of the injury, which can complicate the claim. Furthermore, there may be additional requirements for proving a psychiatric injury claim, such as demonstrating that the injury is severe enough to qualify for compensation and the effects on the claimant’s quality of life.

Who is eligible to claim compensation for a psychiatric injury?

Here at McCarthy + Co, we specialise in assisting people who have suffered psychological injuries because of negligent or abusive workplace events, or due to serious accidents they were involved in. However, there are many different scenarios where an injured party may have grounds to bring a claim. This includes the following.
  • Victims of a violent crime – Individuals who have been the victim of a violent crime, such as an assault, rape, or domestic violence, may be eligible to claim compensation for their trauma. A specialist criminal injury lawyer is advisable in these circumstances.
  • Victims of accidents – Individuals who have been involved in an accident, such as a car accident or workplace accident, and have suffered a psychiatric injury in relation to it. If a negligent third party caused the accident, the injured party may have grounds to seek compensation for both their physical and psychological injuries.
  • Injuries sustained in military service – Military personnel who have experienced traumatic events during their service may have grounds to claim. Exposure to violent and life-threatening situations, for example, are common causes of PTSD for military personnel. Take a look at military claims page for further details.
  • Injuries sustained by emergency services teams – first responders to serious accidents such as police officers, firefighters, and paramedics, may develop psychological traumas due to their experiences on duty. Take a look at our emergency services page for further details.
  • Witnesses of traumatic events – Individuals who have witnessed a traumatic event, such as a serious accident or violent crime, and have suffered a psychiatric injury as a result may be eligible to claim compensation.

What types of psychiatric injuries can form the basis of a claim?

At McCarthy + Co, we have assisted many people in their pursuit of successful personal injury claims involving psychological injuries. Psychiatric conditions caused by negligent third parties (such as an employer or service provider), include the following:
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – PTSD is a mental health condition that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as a road accident or an assault in the workplace. Symptoms of PTSD may include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and avoidance behaviour.
  • Anxiety and depression – These conditions are common mental health conditions that can result from a variety of causes, including traumatic events, chronic stress, and genetic factors. We often assist people who have developed severe anxiety as a result of traumatic experiences they endured in the line of their work.
  • Adjustment disorders – These types of disorders are a group of mental health conditions that can occur after experiencing a significant life change, such as the death of a loved one or a major illness. Symptoms may include anxiety, depression, and difficulty coping with everyday tasks. In fatal accident cases, the partner of the deceased may include consideration of their adjustment disorder as part of their case.
  • Trauma-related personality disorders – These types of disorders are a group of conditions that can develop because of exposure to traumatic events. Symptoms may include emotional instability, impulsivity, and a distorted sense of self.

Bringing a psychiatric injury claim

If you or a member of your family have suffered a psychiatric injury that you believe to be the fault of a third party, our personal injury claims team would be glad to assist you with further guidance. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is a seasoned solicitor with almost 20 years of experience, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims, focusing particularly on high-value compensation cases. His extensive litigation experience spans Circuit Court, High Court and Supreme Court levels. John's practice involves a diverse range of cases, from personal injury and wrongful death to property damage, defective products, professional negligence and judicial reviews.


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