Recognised psychiatric illness
Recognised psychiatric illness

The following PI & Clinical Negligence practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Recognised psychiatric illness
  • The general rule—no compensation for mental distress without recognised psychiatric illness
  • The exceptions—compensation for non-physical symptoms without a recognised psychiatric illness
  • Should you obtain psychiatric evidence?
  • What to do if you think there may be psychiatric injury?
  • A positive psychiatric report
  • Which psychiatric conditions entitle a claimant to recover damages?

The general rule—no compensation for mental distress without recognised psychiatric illness

It is common for accident victims to suffer considerable distress as a result of their accident or injury, particularly if the accident itself was very serious or if a fatality occurred. Generally speaking, such distress will not entitle them to bring a claim for psychiatric injury as a separate head of loss unless that injury amounts to a recognised psychiatric illness.

As such, whether or not a claimant has suffered a recognised psychiatric injury is a particularly important issue.

There are two benefits to resolving this question quickly: firstly, it allows the claim to proceed on the correct basis and the claimant to be compensated in full; and secondly, it means that the rehabilitation code can be used to help a claimant who will benefit medically from psychological or psychiatric intervention to receive it as soon as possible.

For further information on the most recent Rehabilitation Code, see Practice Note: Rehabilitation Code 2015.

The different factual situations where a claim for psychiatric injury or illness may succeed are as follows:

  1. a claimant suffers physical injury with accompanying psychiatric injury

  2. a claimant does not suffer any physical injury but suffers psychiatric harm as a result of being a participant in a dangerous event (a primary victim), provided injury of some kind was foreseeable

  3. note that neither of the above

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