While the majority of personal injury claims are for physical injuries, it is also possible to claim compensation for psychological trauma. Psychological injuries are often caused by sudden traumatic or stressful events outside the realm of ordinary experience, such as a road traffic accident, accident at work or clinical negligence. These injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety disorder, can have life-changing effects that are sometimes more debilitating than a physical condition.
Psychological trauma claims usually accompany or form part of claims for physical injury but can also exist on their own. For a psychological trauma claim to be valid, the symptoms of the condition must persist for several weeks following the traumatic incident that caused it and have a significant impact on aspects of daily living.
There are two types of psychological trauma victims: primary victims and secondary victims. Primary victims are people who are directly involved in an incident and have suffered psychological trauma as a result of someone’s negligent actions. Even if you weren’t physically injured, if there was a threat of serious injury which has caused you to suffer psychologically, you may have the right to claim and receive the help you need. Secondary victims are individuals who suffer a psychological reaction to witnessing first-hand a serious accident.
The symptoms of psychological trauma vary depending upon the specific condition. For PTSD, they can include flashbacks, avoidance, intrusive and distressing imagery and thoughts and sleep disturbance. On the other hand, people with depression may constantly ruminate over negative life events, become emotionally distant from family and friends, lose interest in previously enjoyed interests and become increasingly isolated from friends. For people with anxiety-based conditions, they may feel agitated, excessively worry over related or unrelated matters, and experience physiological changes including hot sweats, palpitations and irritability. Symptoms are usually triggered when reminded of the incident or when they are unable to avoid accident related activities, for example driving. Symptoms of low mood may persist due to the impact of the accident on your life.
If you suffer psychologically as a consequence of the accident or a pre-existing mental health condition has been worsened, then you may be entitled to make a claim. For some people, it will be important to access therapeutic support to help resolve the issues that have arisen for you. Making a claim allows you to access the support you need to help with your recovery.