If you suffer any sort of psychological injury, it can seriously and negatively impact your overall health and well-being. In legal terms, a psychological injury involves suffering, damage, mental harm, dysfunction or impairment that one person causes to another whether they failed to act or as a result of direct action that resulted in psychological harm to that person.
Although many people who suffer physical injuries due to the negligence of a third party know they could be entitled to file a personal injury claim and be compensated for their pain, suffering and loss of amenity, fewer people realise they may be compensated for psychological injury suffered at the hands of a third party. To find out more about being compensated for psychological injury and the amount you may be awarded in a successful claim, please read on.
- The Definition of Psychological Injury
- What Are the Most Common Causes of Psychological Injuries?
- What is the Difference Between a Primary And Secondary Victim?
- Primary Victims Explained
- Secondary Victims Explained
- What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Psychological Injury
- What Are the Symptoms Associated With Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
- Can Children Suffer From PTSD?
- When You Should Seek Medical Support and Advice
- How is a Psychological Injury Claim Assessed?
- Typical Levels of Compensation For Psychological Injury
- What Treatment is Available for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Group therapy
- What About Medication to Treat Psychological Injury?
- What About Driving if I Have PTSD?
- Further Resources
The process of claiming compensation for psychological injury or mental injury is exactly the same as that associated with physical injury claims. Very often both psychological and physical injury claims go together, but this does not necessarily have to be the case. A lot of people are under the misapprehension that they cannot claim compensation for mental injury, when in fact, they can.
If you have been caused any mental anguish or harm at the hands of a third party, you can sue for compensation. However, you would need to provide adequate evidence and file a claim within the three-year statutory period of limitations associated with all personal injury claims. With this said, the time limit differs where children are concerned and a court has the right to extend it should they feel that it is necessary.
You can suffer psychological injury in a multitude of ways but there are some common causes which are detailed below:
- Being involved in a car accident
- Being the victim of an act of violence
- Being a victim of criminal activity
Any of the above could seriously impact your health and well-being, as a consequence you may suffer from the following:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Although, there may not be an obvious physical injury, suffering any of the above can be life changing. With this said, you may not have been involved in a traumatic incident, you may have had experienced a “near miss” but thought your life was in danger. If you experience any sort of traumatic event that leaves you feeling anxious and stressed, you could also suffer physical reactions when faced with certain things. The physical reactions you may experience could include the following:
- An increased heart rate
- Anxiety attacks
You can be a primary or secondary victim of psychological injury. If you were involved in a traumatic incident that left you mentally injured, you would be a “primary” victim. However, if you witnessed a traumatic event and suffered mentally as a direct result, you would be a “secondary” victim. Providing you can prove that your psychological injury is directly associated with the event you were involved in or that you witnessed and negligence on the part of a third party can be proved, you could be entitled to seek compensation.
As previously mentioned, a lot of people file for compensation for both physical and psychological injury when they were involved in a traumatic event. It is worth noting that even if the psychological is “perceived” or there is a “threat” of being injured, it can result in you suffering psychological injuries which can last a lot longer than many physical injuries you may sustain in a traumatic incident.
When it comes to claiming compensation as a “secondary victim” of psychological injury, the guidelines associated with personal injury claims are slightly tighter and specific criteria must be met for a claim to be valid. These are as follows:
- You must have a “close tie” of both love and affection for the “primary victim”. Examples being a spouse, parent, child or partner
- A secondary victim must have witnessed either the actual traumatic event or been there in the immediate aftermath. A claim would not be valid should you have been “told” of the incident because you need to have been present at the time the incident occurred
- There is also a “chain of events” that must have occurred for your claim as a secondary victim to be valid which means that a successful prosecution filed by the primary victim must have been met against a negligent third party. Once this is the case, you would be able to file for compensation as a secondary victim of psychological injury providing you can provide supporting evidence to prove your case
You can suffer psychological injury in many different ways and the symptoms experienced can differ accordingly depending on several things. However, there are more common symptoms associated with mental injury which includes the following:
- Sleep deprivation
- High levels of stress and anxiety
- Mood swings
- A change in personality
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent and extreme headaches
It is worth noting that a claim would only be valid if you can prove that “existing mental issues” were worsened substantially because you were involved in a traumatic event.
If you were involved in a traumatic event or were the witness to a traumatic event that involved a family member or loved on, you could develop post-traumatic stress disorder. The symptoms associated with PTSD include the following:
- Re-experiencing – this is a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder which can include you experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, distressing and repetitive sensations and images, physical pain, sweating, trembling and feeling sick. Many people who were involved in a traumatic event experience negative thoughts, asking themselves repeatedly questions about the event that prevent them from coming to terms with what happened to them. This can result in feelings of guilt and/or shame
- Avoidance/emotional numbing – another notable symptom of PTSD is attempting to avoid being reminded of what happened which as a result means that you avoid coming into contact with specific people or certain people because it reminds you of the traumatic event you experienced. This can also involve avoiding talking about your experience. It is common for people who suffer from PTSD to push “bad” memories to the back of their minds which they do by throwing themselves into chosen activities and work. You may find that you try to deal with your feelings by attempting to feel nothing at all which is referred to as “emotional numbing”. The result is that you become withdrawn and isolated. You could also choose not to pursue activities that you once enjoyed
- Hyperarousal/feeling on edge – if you suffer from PTSD, you may find it hard to relax and feel anxious, on edge all of the time. You may find that you are easily startled and constantly aware of threats around you. When you are in this state of mind, it is referred to as “hyperarousal” and it can lead to you being irritable, prone to angry outbursts, suffering from insomnia and a difficulty concentrating or focusing on things
Other issues you may experience if you have PTSD could include the following:
- Mental health issues which includes depression, phobias and/or anxiety
- A tendency to self-harm or demonstrating destructive behaviour which includes the misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
- Breakdown of relationships
- Problems at work
In the majority of cases, symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder typically develop over the first month following the traumatic incident. However, in some cases, the symptoms may not manifest themselves for months and sometimes even years. In some cases, the symptoms are less noticeable over long periods of time, but then they get much worse. In other cases, people with PTSD experience constant and very severe symptoms.
It is not only adults that can have PTSD, children too can experience very similar symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder which includes the following:
- A difficulty sleeping
- Loss of interest in activities they enjoyed
- Frequent headaches
- Frequent stomach aches
- Worrisome behaviour
- A tendency to avoid anything that is connected to a traumatic event
- A tendency to re-enact a traumatic event over and over again through play
When you experience any sort of traumatic event, it is perfectly normal to be confused and upset. In many cases, these feelings subside over the course of a few weeks. However, if the symptoms and feelings you experience continue and seem to be getting worse, it is time to seek support and advice from your GP or other medical professional before things really spiral out of control.
A doctor would ask you to provide as much information about the symptoms you are experiencing and when you were involved in the traumatic event that left you marked. Whether it was a recent accident or something that occurred in your past. You will be asked if you suffer from nightmares and/or flashbacks and once your condition has been successfully assessed, the doctor would refer you to a specialist should it be felt that it would be in your best interest to receive specific counselling and therapies.
A psychological injury can negatively impact your well-being and life much more so that many physical injuries which is something that many people are not aware of. When your mind is exposed to a traumatic event, it can cause you long-term damage. If you suffered psychological injury through the negligence of a third party, you could be entitled to seek compensation from them by filing a personal injury claim through the courts.
However, because claims can be complex, it is best to seek professional advice from a solicitor who specialises in psychological claims. You would need to provide as much evidence as you can to prove your claim and a solicitor would then be able to assess whether you have a strong case against a negligent third party.
The amount of compensation you could receive for psychological injury would depend on your symptoms, whether the psychiatric damage is permanent or long-lasting. Other factors that would be taken into account when calculating the compensation you may be awarded would include the following:
- How the psychological injuries you suffered impact your social life
- How the psychological injuries you suffered impact your ability to work
If your psychological injury claim is upheld, you would be compensated for all the pain, suffering and loss of amenity you endured as a direct result of your injuries. However, you would also receive compensation for all the expenses and other costs incurred as a result of your injuries. This includes all treatments and therapies you receive that are not covered by the NHS.
The severity of psychological injuries are broken down into five groups as follows:
- If you suffer severe psychological issues which negatively impact your social and working life where some issues are harder to treat with a limited amount of success in the long term, you may be awarded anything from £43,710 to £92,240
- If you suffer moderately severe psychological trauma which is deemed treatable but which could leave you markedly scarred psychologically, you may be awarded anything from £15,200 to £43,710
- If you suffered psychological injuries and the prognosis is encouraging because there is “hope” in the longer term which is known as “moderate psychological trauma”, you may receive anything from £4,670 to £15,200
- If you suffered less severe psychological trauma where there is no longer term damage to your overall health and life, you may receive anything from £1,220 – £4,670
When it comes to compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, the amount you may be awarded could be anything from a few thousand pounds to up to £80,250 if the symptoms you experience are extremely severe.
If you were involved in a traumatic event that left you with post-traumatic stress disorder, a doctor would refer you to a specialist who would typically recommend specific therapies and medication. The first thing that would be done by a specialist is to assess your condition which they would do by producing a detailed and full assessment of the symptoms you are experiencing and if they have lasted for longer than 4 weeks.
The sort of therapies that a specialist would typically recommend could include the following:
- Watchful waiting – this type of approach to PTSD has proved effective for people with mild symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder which have lasted for fewer than 4 weeks. It involves careful monitoring of the symptoms you are experiencing and to then determine whether the symptoms are improving or getting worse over time. Studies have shown that 2 out of 3 people with PTSD following a traumatic event typically get that much better without receiving any sort of treatment or therapy after a few weeks. Should a specialist recommend watchful waiting as a way forward, you should still schedule a “follow-up” appointment with the specialist within 4 weeks
- Psychological therapies – should the symptoms you experience have lasted longer than 4 weeks and appear to be getting worse, a specialist may recommend you undergo psychological therapy as well as take prescribed medication. The three types of therapies that have proved effective in treating people suffering from PTSD include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) and Group therapy
This type of therapy has proved to be a very effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The therapy helps you manage your problems and does so by altering the way you act or think about things. There are a range of psychological techniques that are used in trauma-focused CBT which can help you come to terms with a traumatic event you experienced.
The specialist could ask you to confront the memories of a traumatic incident and would do by asking you to think about the memories in detail. This process helps when it comes to coping with distress, it identifies the unhelpful thoughts as well as the misrepresentations that you may have about your experience. The specialist is able to help you get back in control of the distress and fear you are experiencing which is done by changing all the negative ways that you visualise the incident which includes any feelings of self-blame and the fear that the event is going to happen again.
The specialist may also encourage you to take part in activities that you have been avoiding since having been involved in the traumatic event. This includes driving a car again if you were involved in a road traffic accident. This type of therapy typically last for 8 to 12 weeks with each session lasting anything from 60 to 90 minutes.
Although a relatively new form of therapy, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), the treatment is proving effective when treating people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The therapy involves making specific side to side movements with your eyes, which is typically achieved by following a therapist’s finger as it moves from side to side while at the same time recounting a traumatic event you were involved in. Another method could involve a therapist tapping a finger or playing a specific tone.
It is not actually known why or how eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing works but what is known is that it could change the way you think and feel about the traumatic event you experienced by thinking about it in a more positive rather than negative light.
Many sufferers of PTSD find it extremely beneficial to take part in group therapy because being able to talk about a traumatic event with others helps them cope with their own feelings and thoughts. Group therapy could also help you find a way to manage the symptoms you are experiencing and can go a long way in assisting you when it comes to understanding your condition.
There are several charities in the UK that provide counselling through support groups for PTSD sufferers and this includes the following:
- Rape Crisis
- Victim Support
- Combat Stress
Your GP may prescribe antidepressants for you if they find that you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Doctors only typically prescribe antidepressants if no other treatment or therapy has proven beneficial or that you have an underlying health issue which includes suffering from severe depression.
The length of time that you would be prescribed antidepressants would typically be over 12 months after which time, you would gradually be weaned off the medication over 4 weeks or a little longer.
If you have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, you may need to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) because your driving ability may be negatively impacted by your condition.
The Samaritans provide support, help and advice when you need it the most. You can talk to someone at any time of the day or night on their 24-hour helpline.
Mind offers support on mental health issues, where you can find help and advocacy as well as treatments and therapies that are available. To find out more please click on the link below:
If you have been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD and would like more information on whether your condition would affect your right to drive a car, please follow the link below: