The Law on Psychiatric Harm

Outdated and Harsh

As you may have all recently read about the Hillsborough disaster this issue has been brought back into the forefront. It is argued that the law on claims for psychiatric injury is outdated and often harsh. The principles of this law were enshrined after the Hillsborough disaster 25 years ago.

The current law states in general that if one is to bring a claim for psychiatric injury it must have been caused by someone else’s negligence and is only available to a parent, child, spouse or fiancé of the deceased or injured person. It is necessary for them to prove that there is a close tie of love and affection with the deceased/injured person and that the psychiatric injury sustained was due to a “shocking” event and that they were “close in time or space” to the incident. Further they should have anticipated that death or injury is likely to occur. It is currently being argued that this law no longer reflects modern society and thus there is an urgent need for reform.

Archaic Law

APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) are at the forefront of seeking to change this archaic law. APIL is seeking to widen the list of extra relationships that should be included where a “close tie” should be accepted such as with grandparents, siblings, cohabitees, same sex partners and colleagues.

The current law requires there to be a “shocking event” before a claim will be considered. The reform that is being sought in respect of this area is that the requirement should be “distressing event” or “series of events”. This will then include cases where events have taken place over a period of time such as where families have had to deal with loved ones dying from asbestos cancer, a parent having to deal with his or her child suffering and eventually dying as a result of someone’s negligence. Finally, a further reform that is being sought is to remove the requirement of having to show that the Claimant making the claim was present or close to the place of the incident.

Times Have Changed

It is clear that times have changed over the last 25 years where the understanding of someone suffering from psychiatric injury has significantly improved. It is also acceptable that such injuries are equally if not more serious than actual physical injuries that may have occurred. However, one of the most difficult aspect with psychiatric injury is that it cannot be as one would if a physical injury has been sustained. It is therefore important that the Claimant making such a claim should provide evidence from a qualified Psychiatrist and the process of assessing him or her should be undertaken with care.

For any further information in respect of the above or any other matters relating to personal injury issues please contact Miss Rickey Bains on 01189 478638.