Psychiatric Harm AQA A2 Law Unit 4

all of the elements of psychiatric harm, cases and a case table.

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  • Created on: 14-02-13 15:57
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Psychiatric Harm/Nervous Shock
Psychiatric harm, also known as nervous shock, applies to situations where the claimant has witnessed a
horrific accident, is physically unharmed but suffers a psychiatric illness. This must be a recognised medical
condition which have been held to include-
Depression: Chadwick v British Transport (1976)
In this case two trains crashed in a tunnel. A small nearby man was asked to crawl into
the wreckage to give injections to victims. He was able to successfully claim for the
anxiety neurosis he suffered as a result, because he was a primary victim.
Personality Change: McLoughlin v O'Brian (1983)
A woman was called to a hospital about an hour after her children and husband were
involved in a car crash. One child was dead, two were badly injured, all were in shock and
they had not been cleaned up. She suffered nervous shock as a result of witnessing the
aftermath (secondary victim).
Post traumatic stress disorder: Hale v London Underground (1992)
A fireman successfully claimed for post-traumatic stress he suffered following the Kings
Cross Station fire, as he was a rescuer (primary victim).
Traditionally, the courts have been reluctant to allow such claims because of:
The difficulty of proof--it is easy to see a broken leg but much more problematic to
produce evidence of psychological damage ­ therefore it is much easier to bring a
claim for personal injury in negligence rather than a claim for nervous shock!
The possibility of fraud--a broken leg cannot be faked by psychological damage could be!
The floodgates argument--a far greater number of people could suffer nervous
shock this increasing the number of claims and increasing the probability that the
defendant would not be able to satisfy all the judgements.
For the duty of care to arise there must be the following factors:
Proximity in terms of relationship

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The claimant must be in a close and loving relationship with the accident victim (rescuers are
an exception to this rule)
Proximity in terms of time and space
The claimant must be at the scene of the accident, in the vicinity of the
accident or have come across the immediate aftermath of the accident
Reasonable foreseeabilty
The claimant's injuries must have been reasonably foreseeable. There must have been a
direct perception of the accident by the claimant's own unaided senses.…read more

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In the case of Hunter (1998) the court identified the following categories:
Primary Victims- those who are in fear of injury to self; rescuers; and those who believe they are
responsible for injury to another.
Secondary Victims- those in fear of injury to other at the accident; those who witness the aftermath.
Rescuers (Primary victims)
The law treat this category as primary victims and allows recovery (Chadwick v British Railways Board
1967).…read more

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He suffered by the claimant after
was able to successfully claim for the witnessing a horrific accident.
depression he suffered; this was
because he was a primary victim.
McLoughlin v O'Brian (1983) A woman was called to a hospital Personality Change ­ an example of
about an hour after he children was a recognisable medical condition
husband were involved in a car crash. suffered by the claimant after
One child was dead, two were badly witnessing a horrific accident.…read more

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The claimant helped prepare
his ship to receive the injured, for
instance by bringing blankets, but his
claim for psychiatric damage caused
as a result of what he saw and
experienced failed: he was neither a
rescuer or in immediate physical
danger himself.
Robertson v Forth Road Bridge - The relationship between
Joint Board (1995) employees is not sufficient to take
them outside the category of
bystanders.…read more


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