A person who witnesses a loved one being killed or seriously injured by the negligence of another can claim compensation if they suffer psychiatric injury as a result. Even witnessing the immediate aftermath (as opposed to the accident itself) can give rise to a claim for compensation.
This type of claim is known as a secondary victim claim (the primary victim being the person killed or seriously injured by the accident).
A secondary victim who has suffered psychiatric injury in these circumstances will have to show all of the following in order to be entitled to compensation:
- a close tie of love or affection. Usually a marital, parental or sibling relationship, although others remain possible.
- that their psychiatric injury arose from the sudden and unexpected shock to the Claimant’s nervous system;
- that they were either personally present at the scene of the accident or were in the immediate vicinity and witnessed the aftermath shortly afterwards; and
- that the psychiatric injury suffered arose from witnessing the death of, extreme danger to, or injury and discomfort suffered by the primary victim.
A client of mine recently recovered compensation for post traumatic stress disorder suffered as a result of witnessing the death of a family member, who was killed by the negligence of another driver.
The consultant psychiatrist expert witness reported that the claimant had suffered PTSD as a result of witnessing the tragic accident and, after commencing court proceedings, the defendant representative made an offer to settle the claim. Subsequent negotiations resulted in an increased offer which led to settlement of the claim.