PTSD Compensation

Psychological injury claims will award valuable PTSD compensation to help you overcome your post traumatic stress disorder, shock, mental trauma and additional mental health issues sustained following an accident which caused injury or harm.

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Compensation for Psychological Injuries

As a victim of a road accident, accident at work or an assault, for example, you may not only suffer from an injury but also psychological trauma, commonly called ‘shock’. The accident may also cause long-lasting depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The psychological effect can be longer than the physical injury suffered.

Post-traumatic stress disorder compensation for mental health is gaining greater prominence in the press. Now, the courts are recognising more than ever the emotional impact of psychological distress, resulting in increased awards for PTSD compensation following an accident.

We are specialists in psychological injury claims. Contact us today to start your journey towards PTSD compensation.

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Guideline Figures for PTSD Claims

Below are some guideline figures for payouts that may be awarded to victims depending on the severity of their psychological injury claim.

Severe PTSD£41,675 – £88,000
Moderately Severe PTSD£14,500 – £41,675
Moderate PTSD£4,450 – £14,500
Less Severe PTSD£1,170 – £4,450

Can You Claim for PTSD Compensation?

You can claim for PTSD compensation if you have suffered psychological trauma due to an accident caused by another party’s negligent or malicious actions. To claim, you must be able to show evidence that you suffered from PTSD, which can affect you emotionally and financially, and that someone else was at fault for the incident which led to your diagnosis. Claims must usually be submitted within three years of the accident occurring.

PTSD can significantly impact your everyday life, affecting everything from your health to your relationships and career. If an accident has caused you psychological harm, whether you sustained a physical injury or not, it’s vital that you consider PTSD compensation.

We know that psychological injury can be complex, and most people are unaware of what can cause PTSD and whether they can claim damages. Some of the common causes of PTSD often include:

  • Physical assaults
  • Violent robberies
  • Domestic abuse
  • Terrorism attacks
  • Natural disasters
  • Childhood trauma
  • Serving in the military
  • Witnessing violent deaths
  • Illness diagnosis
  • Motor accidents
  • Sexual assaults
  • Workplace accidents

This isn’t an exhaustive list of what can cause psychological injury, but it summarises some of the most common causes. If you are unsure whether you can make a PTSD compensation claim, talk to one of our solicitors today for free, no-obligation advice.

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Examples of Psychological Injury Compensation

The above information provides a glimpse into the situations that can lead to psychological injury and the average payout amounts, but the most substantial evidence we can present about PTSD compensation lies within real-life cases. Below are a few examples of PTSD claims that have resulted in significant psychological injury compensation for victims.

Teacher Awarded £850K After Being Assaulted

In an example of one of the largest PTSD compensation payouts, a teacher was awarded £850,000 in damages after being assaulted by a pupil. The science teacher was left with mental and physical injuries after being punched by a suspended pupil who was allowed to return to the classroom. Following the incident, the teacher was diagnosed with PTSD and severe depressive disorder and was unable to return to his job. He also sustained a head injury, hearing loss, back and ankle injuries, and bruising. His mental state caused him to be sanctioned twice under the Mental Health Act for his safety. The school in London was aware of the pupil’s violent past and ordered to pay the teacher’s psychological injury compensation.

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PTSD from Systematic Abuse

As well as accidents, post-traumatic stress disorder can develop from systematic abuse in settings such as care homes and hospitals. In particular, vulnerable patients are more likely to suffer abuse and subsequent PTSD. A recent example of a psychological compensation claim involving abuse is a Berkshire hospital run by the Huntercombe Group. Several teenagers developed PTSD due to systematic abuse sustained at the hospital. We are handling a Huntercombe Group claim on behalf of the young victims.

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A History of Psychological Trauma

The concept of  PTSD compensation for trauma is gaining traction, and we have supplied a summary of the law. Still, you can contact us directly if there are any concerns or issues about your psychological injury claim for compensation following any accident that has caused injury or trauma affecting your mental health.

Historically, the judiciary has been reluctant to recognise the legitimacy of psychological injury claims where emotional trauma has resulted in psychiatric illness. As Lord Bridge commented in McLoughlin v O’Brian [1983] 1 AC 410, “It is in recent times that these insights have come to be generally accepted by the judiciary.”

Claims for psychiatric injury find their roots in the case of Dulieu v White [1901] KB 699. In this landmark case, a pregnant barmaid suffered nervous shock and prematurely gave birth to a child after a horse and cart crashed into the pub where she worked. Although she had not suffered physical injury, she was entitled to recover compensation because her nervous shock arose from a reasonable fear for her immediate safety.

The later case of Hambrook v Stokes Bros [1925] 1 KB 141 CA further expanded upon the precedent set down in Dulieu. In that case, PTSD compensation was due in respect of a woman who had suffered nervous shock after she witnessed a lorry rolling down a hill towards her children, who were out of sight around a bend. Thus a claimant may be entitled to compensation not only for shock due to fear for their safety but also for shock arising from the reasonable fear of immediate injury to their child.

In 1943, the House of Lords considered the issue of psychiatric injury for the first time in the case of Bourhill v Young [1943] AC 92. Although, in that case, judgement was made in favour of the defendant, namely that Mr Young was not to blame for any psychiatric harm Mrs Bourhill might have suffered, the House of Lords acknowledged the legitimacy of claims for negligently inflicted psychiatric injury.

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Defining Psychiatric Injury

Some reluctance to widen the scope of negligence law to cover psychiatric injury is rooted in the uncertainty involved in defining and proving psychiatric injury and the fear of fraudulent claims. In this respect, the increasing acceptance of psychological injury claims mirrors the developing awareness of PTSD within the medical profession.

Case law emphasises that for a claim to succeed, there must be a genuine illness. Per Lord Bridge in McLoughlin v O’Brian, a claimant must establish that they are suffering “not merely grief, distress or any other normal emotion, but a positive psychiatric illness.” Thus in Hinz v Berry [1970] 2 QB 40, the claimant failed to receive PTSD compensation for the grief and sorrow experienced at losing her husband. Nor was the claimant entitled to compensation for the fear experienced when trapped in a lift in the case of Reilly & Anor v Merseyside Regional Health Authority [1994] EWCA Civ 30. In that case, the judges reiterated that “the sound policy of the law is that the excitement of a normal human emotion, together with its normal physical consequence, is not compensatable.”

Therefore, there will be no compensation in cases involving pure psychiatric harm without a recognisable psychiatric condition.

Primary vs Secondary Victims

The leading case of Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1991] UKHL 5 draws a distinction between primary and secondary victims and the criteria that must be met before a PTSD compensation claim succeeds.

A primary victim is one who was present at the event and was directly affected as a participant. In contrast, secondary victims are those who suffer psychiatric injury indirectly – for example, if their loved one was involved in an accident – and must satisfy specific criteria before being entitled to compensation.

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Establishing Blame

Many psychological injury claims arise from negligent accidents which have had a traumatic effect on the victim. Where this is the case, the common negligence law applies, and blame must be established before any compensation is due.

First, a claimant must prove that a duty of care exists, that is to say, the defendant is obliged not to inflict harm upon the claimant. It is widely accepted that certain classes of people owe a duty of care to others. For example, doctors owe a duty of care to their patients, employers owe a duty of care to their employees, and teachers owe a duty of care to their students, and so on. Taking a school into consideration, broadly speaking the duty of care owed requires that they take reasonable care for the health and safety of the pupils in its charge, including a duty to take positive steps to protect their wellbeing (Gower v London Borough of Bromley [1999] ELR 356).

In Barber v Somerset CC [2002] EWCA Civ 76, involving an employee who had suffered work-related stress due to his heavy workload, it was held that the ordinary principles of employer’s liability applied and that the threshold criteria was whether the harm suffered was reasonably foreseeable. In other words, it must be established that the defendant should reasonably have predicted that a breach of his or her duty of care would result in harm to the claimant.

Under Page v Smith [1995] UKHL 7, it does not need to be proven that psychiatric injury was foreseeable so long as some kind of personal injury was foreseeable. Moreover, the fact that the extent of the damage was unpredictable due to the claimant’s particular vulnerabilities is irrelevant. Thus, in Page v Smith, the claimant was entitled to compensation when he suffered a recurrence of chronic fatigue syndrome as a result of a car accident caused by the defendant. The fact that the defendant did not know that the claimant had suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and was therefore susceptible to a recurrence of that illness in the event of a road traffic accident was irrelevant: it was reasonably foreseeable that a car accident would result in some personal injury to the claimant.

Has Duty of Care Been Breached?

In order to establish a breach of duty, the defendant’s actions (or omissions) must have fallen below what would be expected from a reasonable person in the circumstances.

In Green v DB Group Services (UK) Limited [2006] EWHC 1898 (QB), the claimant sought compensation for her psychiatric injury sustained as a result of bullying and harassment from a number of her colleagues. In allowing the claim, the court held that the defendant, her employer, had been in breach of its duty of care in failing to take any adequate steps to protect her from such behaviour. In particular, the claimant’s line managers had known or ought to have known what had been going on due to previous allegations of bullying; moreover, the claimant was a person who her employer had known was more vulnerable than the population at large.

Did the Breach of Duty Cause the Injury?

There must be a causal connection between the breach of duty and the injury sustained. The usual method of establishing factual causation is the but-for test which asks: “But for the defendant’s act, would the harm have occurred?”

As the Court in Sutherland v Hatton [2002] EWCA Civ 76 observed, “Many stress-related illnesses are likely to have a complex aetiology with several different causes. In principle, a wrongdoer should pay only for that proportion of the harm suffered for which he by his wrongdoing is responsible.”

Thus in the case of KR & Ors v Bryn Alyn Community (Holdings) Ltd [2003] EWCA Civ 85, involving fourteen claimants who sought compensation for personal injuries arising from physical and sexual abuse suffered whilst resident in children’s homes run by the defendant, compensation was calculated not only with reference to the psychiatric illnesses but to the degree that the abuse at the children homes had contributed to those conditions.

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Judicial College PTSD Guidelines

The Judicial College Guidelines provide an estimated range of how much PTSD compensation may be awarded when assessing the damages caused by the event.

To make a post-traumatic stress disorder compensation claim, the claimant must be able to provide that:

  • A duty of care was owed by the defendant
  • The defendant failed to meet these legal obligations and therefore breached his or her duty
  • That breach caused trauma to the claimant in the form of a recognisable psychiatric condition

The claimant will be entitled to compensation, calculated with reference to the Judicial College Guidelines.

The Judicial College Guidelines provide guidance on the value of personal injury claims based on the injuries sustained. It is important to note that the amount of compensation due depends not upon the severity of the accident itself but upon the severity of the injuries caused. Nor must the guidelines be followed as actual compensation may differ slightly from the values set out.

Broadly speaking, the amount of compensation owed in cases of psychiatric injury is divided into brackets according to the severity of the psychiatric illness suffered.

Severe£41,675 – £88,000
Moderately Severe£14,500 – £41,675
Moderate£4,450 – £14,500
Less Severe£1,170 – £4,450

Other factors to be taken into account include:

  • The claimant’s ability to cope with life and work
  • The effect on the claimant’s relationships with family, friends and those with whom he or she comes into contact
  • The extent to which treatment would be successful
  • Future vulnerability
  • Prognosis
  • Whether medical help has been sought

Protection From Harassment Act 1997

Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, compensation may be due where the claimant has suffered harassment. Majrowski and Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Trust [2005] QB 848 stipulates that in order to be considered harassment, “[t]he conduct has also to be calculated, in an objective sense, to cause distress and has to be oppressive and unreasonable.”

Where harassment has been proven, the claimant may be awarded compensation for any anxiety caused by the harassment. Notably, compensation under the 1997 Act does not depend upon a recognised psychiatric disorder, nor is there any need to establish foreseeability.

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Secondary Victims Compensation

It is not the case that only those directly involved in an accident may be entitled to compensation for any psychological trauma sustained. Those who are indirectly affected may also successfully bring a claim for PTSD compensation.

In only the second case involving nervous shock to reach the House of Lords, McLoughlin v O’Brian [1982] UKHL 3, the claimant had learned of a motor accident involving her husband and children two hours after the incident. On her arrival at the hospital, she was told that one of the children had been killed and saw her husband and other two children in a distressed condition. The House of Lords held that she was entitled to compensation for the psychiatric illness she suffered as a result of her experience.

Since the ruling in McLoughlin, the law has developed so that those who are indirectly affected by a traumatic event – so called “Secondary Victims” – must satisfy different criteria before their claim will succeed.

The Alcock Criteria

The case of Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1991] UKHL 5 centred upon whether the police were to blame for the nervous shock suffered as a result of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. Ten relatives of the deceased brought claims for psychiatric harm, however most had not been present in the stadium at the time of the disaster and none had been in physical risk.

In drawing a distinction between primary and secondary victims, the House of Lords held that a secondary victim would only succeed in a claim for compensation if they were able to establish:

  • A close tie of love and affection to a primary victim
  • Appreciation of the event with their own unaided senses
  • Proximity to the event or its immediate aftermath
  • A recognised psychiatric injury that was caused by sudden and unexpected shock

These criteria will now be dealt with in turn.

A close tie of love and affection

A secondary victim must establish that they had a close tie of love and affection with a primary victim of the traumatic event. This so-called “dearness test” was first referred to in the case of McLoughlin, in which it was stated that the law recognises the claims of those with close ties but denies claims brought by ordinary bystanders “either on the basis that such persons must be assumed to be possessed of fortitude sufficient to enable them to endure the calamities of modern life, or that defendants cannot be expected to compensate the world at large.”

Certain relationships will be presumed sufficiently close and therefore will not require evidence to establish a close tie of love and affection. For example, a husband who suffers psychological harm as a result of witnessing a traumatic event involving his wife will not need to prove the closeness of the tie between him and his wife. Nor will proof be required from a mother who is traumatised by an accident which killed her child.

“Close tie of love and affection” is not restrictively defined and therefore other classes of people may be able to claim compensation for psychiatric injury, however, the responsibility is on them to prove that they shared the requisite close tie with a primary victim. In acknowledging that close ties “may be present in family relationships or those of close friendships, and may be stronger in the case of engaged couples than in that of persons who have been married to each other for many years”, Lord Keith in Alcock proposed that reasonable foreseeability should be the guide; in other words, whether it could be predicted that a traumatic event involving the primary victim would result in psychological harm to the claimant.

Thus the test for close tie of love and affection is flexible and each relationship will be judged on a case-by-case basis. In the case of Alcock, for example, in considering the closeness of the relationships between the ten claimants and the relevant primary victims, Lord Keith observed that “the mere fact of the particular relationship was insufficient” when he considered that several of the claimants, and in particular a grandfather, did not satisfy this requirement. In contrast, a grandmother succeeded in her compensation claim in Re (a minor) v Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWHC 824 (QB) where she suffered psychological harm after witnessing the traumatic birth of her grandchild.

Appreciation of the event with their own unaided senses

Under this heading, the claimant must have perceived the event with his or her own senses, for example as an eye-witness to the event or its immediate aftermath, or by hearing the event in person. This test has been referred to as the “direct perception criterion”.

It was largely under this criterion that the claimants in Alcock failed to succeed in their compensation claim; although they acknowledged that several of the claimants may have satisfied the criterion for close tie of love and affection, the court held that they nevertheless failed on the grounds that they had not seen or heard the events at Hillsborough directly, but had witnessed it on television. Crucially, the scenes on television had not depicted pictures of suffering by recognisable individuals.

Proximity to the event or its immediate aftermath

Claimants must further show that they had proximity “in time and space” to the event, in other words, that they were present at the event or were a witness to its immediate aftermath.

In McLoughlin, the claimant received compensation on the grounds that she had seen her family in the immediate aftermath of the accident; she had rushed to hospital within hours and the victims were still covered in mud, oil and blood from the accident.  The claimant in Galli-Atkinson v Seghal [2003] EWCA Civ 697 also succeeded in her compensation claim when she suffered psychological harm after identifying her daughter’s body in the mortuary approximately 2 hours after she was killed. In that case, the court considered there was an unbroken chain of events and that an event could be made up of a number of components as could the aftermath “provided that the events alleged to constitute the aftermath retain sufficient proximity to the event”.

As with close tie of love and affection, the proximity criterion has been interpreted loosely. In North Glamorgan NHS Trust v Walters [2002] EWCA Civ 1792, the court judged the 36 hours preceding the baby’s death as a single horrifying event, finding that the facts of the case created a “seamless tale” with “an obvious beginning and an equally obvious end … played out over a period of 36 hours.”

In contrast, where the primary victim sustains an injury in an accident and unexpectedly dies 3 weeks later, as was the case in Taylor v A Novo (UK) Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 194, the claimant will not be entitled to compensation where she witnessed the unexpected collapse and death and subsequently suffered psychiatric illness. Although she would have succeeded in her compensation claim had she witnessed the original accident and suffered psychological trauma, the accident and collapse were two distinct events and by witnessing only the collapse, the claimant could not demonstrate sufficient proximity to the accident itself.

Psychiatric injury caused by shock

In order to succeed in their compensation claim, a secondary victim must show that the traumatic incident in question resulted in psychiatric injury in the form of a recognised psychiatric condition. The definition of “psychiatric injury” is expanded upon here.

Crucially, the psychiatric injury must be caused by the shock of the event itself rather than by any subsequent grief, for example where the primary victim has died. “Shock” in this context involves the sudden appreciation of a horrifying event, which “violently agitates the mind”.

Gradually cumulative events will not satisfy the suddenness criterion; thus, the claimants in the case of Taylorson v Shieldness Produce Ltd [1994] PIQR 329 failed in their compensation claim where they experienced “a dawning consciousness” that they were going to lose their 14-year-old son following a road traffic accident.

Moreover, the event must be sufficiently horrifying. In Owers v Medway NHS Trust [2015] EWHC 2363 (QB), the court acknowledged that what the claimant had witnessed was distressing but not “horrifying” as judged by objective standards. Similarly in Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v Ronayne [2015] EWCA Civ 588 the claimant failed on the grounds that the events he had witnessed were not horrifying. There, the claimant’s wife had undergone emergency treatment at the defendant’s hospital and he claimed as a secondary victim for the distress he suffered, however, the court judged that the appearance of his wife was as would be expected of a person in hospital and the experience was not, therefore, wholly exceptional.

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Two trains collide in dense fog. A man who lives nearby immediately goes to assist in rescuing the victims, crawling under debris and into the wreckage to help and comfort those who are trapped. Following the incident, he develops an anxiety disorder requiring hospital treatment. Is he entitled to compensation?

These were the facts of Chadwick v British Railways Board [1967] 2 All ER 945, and in that case, the court found in favour of the claimant so that compensation was due. In contrast, the claimants in White v Chief Constable of the South Yorkshire Police [1998] UKHL 45 who had suffered PTSD after providing help at the Hillsborough disaster were not entitled to compensation as rescuers.

The distinction drawn between these two cases was between the risk of danger. The claimants in White alleged that as rescuers they would be considered primary victims of the event, however, unlike Chadwick where the rescuer had placed himself in danger by assisting the victims of the train crash, they had not been at risk of physical injury and so their claims could not succeed.

Thus, whether a rescuer is entitled to compensation will depend on whether they are considered a primary or secondary victim, according to the various criteria associated with each. Importantly, in order to be considered a primary victim, the claimant must be within the zone of physical danger; Cullin v London Fire and Civil Defence Authority [1999] PIQR P314 involved a firefighter who had suffered a psychiatric injury following an attempt at rescuing colleagues trapped in a burning building – although the defendant argued that the facts mirrored those of White, the court held that the claimant reasonably believed that he was at risk of injury and therefore could be considered a primary victim.

Conclusion on PTSD Compensation

The law on compensation for psychiatric injury is complex and has been described as a “patchwork quilt of distinctions”. Decisions will turn on the individual facts of a particular case, however, the above criteria act as a useful guide as to whether a claim for compensation will ultimately be successful.

The law from a policy decision by the government and the courts is to stem the floodgate’s argument where a victim has witnessed a distressing event (not the direct victim). The law is not ideal and contra claimants but this is where you will need specialist advice to make a claim for PTSD following an accident.

Obviously, if you were a victim of the accident itself and experiencing PTSD then there is no such hurdle put in place by the courts to make a compensation claim.

Contact the expert injury solicitors today for advice, support and assistance to make a claim for PTSD compensation.

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