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Compensation for psychological injuries caused by accidents

Can innocent victims of disasters such as the recent Glasgow Bin Lorry and Clutha Helicopter tragedies claim compensation (from the negligent party causing the disaster) for psychological injuries caused by involvement in such tragedies?

A person physically injured in an accident can also claim compensation for psychological injury.  If not injured physically, however, to claim he/she must have suffered an identifiable psychological/psychiatric condition (not simply fear, anxiety or distress).

The court then must be satisfied that the claimant is a “primary” or “secondary” victim:-

  1. “Primary victims”

These are immediate accident “participants” and persons “within range of foreseeable injury”.  Successful claims have included emergency services personnel and also members of the public who assisted at the scene. “Primary” victims also include those close enough to the disaster to have reasonably feared suffering direct physical injury.  In a case heard last month, a pedestrian witnessed the Glasgow Bin Lorry tragedy, hearing the lorry crash into a taxi.  She suffered serious psychological injury by her involvement.  The court however refused her claim.  She was not a “primary” victim.  There had been insufficient likelihood of physical injury. She had not assisted those directly injured: the crash happened 40 metres away and neither vehicle had veered towards her. 

  1. “Secondary” victims

Those not sufficiently closely involved to be “primary” victims, but who have either seen/heard the accident, attended the immediate aftermath or (perhaps) visited victims at hospital.   Additional hurdles: such “secondary” victims must have had “close ties of love and affection” with a primary victim of the incident. They also must have been in sufficient proximity in time/space to the accident.  This requirement for “proximity” is narrowly defined:  for example, claimants suffering injury watching TV news reports about disasters involving relatives will probably fail with a claim.

Contact our expert Personal Injury Lawyers Glasgow

We pride ourselves on our expertise and our quality of service. Our team are able to help with any form of personal injury claim. For more information, contact Gordon Bell or David McElroy on 0141 473 6772 or enquire online.

Dallas McMillan feature on Scottish Legal News, re...
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