When it comes to workplace injury, the legal system gives psychological injury the same level of regard as it does physical injury. While the vast majority of personal injury claims are for physical injuries, claims for psychological injury are perfectly valid and can result in substantial damages being awarded to the claimant. All too often, people who suffer psychological injury don’t understand that they can make a claim, and as a result negligent third parties escape their legal obligations.
What are psychological injuries?
Anyone who has experienced severe psychological distress will know just how life changing psychological injury can be. They are frequently experienced alongside physical injuries. The symptoms of psychological injury can vary in their severity but can be just as debilitating as a broken limb or head trauma and will usually require specialist treatment.
The most common forms of psychological injury include depression, adjustment disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression adjustment disorder, phobias and anxiety.
What might cause a psychological injury?
Traumatic events can trigger a psychological injury, and people will respond differently to a range of circumstances and triggers. This makes psychological injury a diverse and personal experience, where no scenario can be completely ruled out.
Some common causes of psychological injury include road traffic accidents, slips and falls, accidents at work, a psychological response to chronic physical pain or body scarring. They can be sudden, dramatic and life-changing or can build over months and years.
How is a psychological injury diagnosed?
A psychiatric diagnosis will usually be made by a psychiatrist or a team of mental health professionals using a range of psychometric tests, as well as professional judgement. However, a psychiatric diagnosis does not constitute a psychological injury by itself. The circumstances that lead to your diagnosis will need to be taken into account.
How do you prove a psychological injury?
In order to prove that a psychological injury claim against an employer is valid, it would need to be demonstrated that the employer was in breach of their duty to keep you safe from harm while you were at work. It could be that your employer is deemed entirely responsible, or partly responsible if your psychological injury cannot be completely attributed to what happened at work. In the latter case, you would still be able to claim compensation for your psychological injury, but the amount you receive would reflect the fact that the employer contributed to the injury. In law this is known as contributory negligence.
Primary and secondary victims
To have a case for a claim, your involvement in the incident would need to fall into one of two categories:
This means you were directly involved in the incident, and suffered either mental or physical harm, as a result of someone else’s breach of duty.
The guidelines regarding secondary victims are a little tighter. There are a number of different criteria you will need to meet before a claim is likely to be successful.
- If a claim is being pursued because of a psychological reaction to witnessing a particular event, such as an accident or a near miss, the victim must have a close tie with the ‘primary victim’. This will usually mean being a spouse, fiancé, parent or child.
- The claimant must have witnessed the actual event or its immediate aftermath, not merely heard about it second hand. Psychological injury needs to have occurred as a result of witnessing the event.
- There is a chain of events for secondary victim claims. The most obvious for this would be a successful prosecution for third-party negligence by the primary victim. Secondary claims with their own supporting evidence could then be lodged.
What if you have a pre-existing mental illness?
If you already have a diagnosis of mental illness such as depression or anxiety, it has to be proved that this has been exacerbated by the incident in question, and your symptoms have grown worse. Also, if you’ve developed another condition that you otherwise wouldn’t have, then you may be able to make a claim.
What sort of compensation might be awarded for a successful claim?
If you make a successful claim for psychiatric or psychological injury against your employer the level of compensation you receive will depend on a number of factors:
- How severe your symptoms are.
- The negative impact those symptoms have had on your life.
- The negative impact those symptoms have on your ability to keep working.
- Whether you incurred a loss of earning or earning potential.
- Whether or not you underwent a treatment for your condition that was only available through the private sector, not the NHS.
Every psychiatric and psychological injury claim is treated as unique, which means that the amount that’s rewarded can differ widely between individuals. However, there are some broad figures that give you an indication of what you might receive for a successful claim.
- If severe psychological issues have impacted on your working and private life, which are resistant to treatment then the payout can be substantial. In the past, this has ranged somewhere between £43,710 and £92,240.
- For claims which are termed as ‘moderately severe psychological injuries’, but the prognosis for long-term recovery is positive, you may receive somewhere between £15,200 and £43,710.
- If you suffer moderate symptoms where the prognosis for recovery is positive, you could receive between £4,670 and £15,200.
- If you suffer from less severe symptoms which affects your ability to cope with everyday life, you could receive between £1,220 and £4,670.
- If you develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) you could receive an award of between £3,150 to £80,250. The higher amount would be awarded in cases of severe PTSD.
A personal injury claims legal specialist will take account of your injuries and use their knowledge of recent cases to advise the amount of compensation you might receive.
What might be included in a psychiatric and psychological injuries at work claim?
Your personal injury claim when it comes to psychological injuries can be made up of both general damages and special damages.
General damages are awarded as a means of compensating you for your distress, suffering, pain and loss you have suffered from your psychological injury. How has it impacted on your work and daily life?
Special damages are usually awarded to compensate you for all of your out of pocket expenses that were incurred as a result of your psychological injury. This may include travel and medical expenses, as well as any other costs that were incurred as a direct result of the psychological injury you suffered through no fault of your own. This would usually include loss of earnings and potential future earnings should you be unable to work in the future.
Might my job be at risk if I make a psychological injury claim?
You cannot be dismissed from your job if you choose to make a psychiatric and psychological injury claim against your employer. Neither can they treat you unfairly or detrimentally as a result of a claim. Should an employer begin to treat you unfairly as a result of your claim, or even dismiss you they would then be breaking the law.
Assessing the claim
It’s important to remember that psychological injuries are as serious as physical injuries and can impact considerably on the overall wellbeing of the individual. If you have suffered a psychological injury at work then our team of experienced personal injury experts can advise if your claim might be successful and how much compensation you could receive.
Supporting your claim
To ensure you get the compensation you deserve, we have an expert claims team, covering the Liverpool, Leigh, Runcorn and Warrington areas. The solicitor we provide you with will support your claim every step of the way, explaining what evidence and proof you will need to provide and guiding you through the entire process.
We make this as easy for you to understand as possible, so that you are always clear about what is going on and where everything is up to as your claim progresses.
We work hard to ensure that when you claim you will receive the best compensation possible, and that you get the right support to help you recover from your injuries or ill health.
Contact Mark Reynolds Solicitors
We have four offices across the northwest including Liverpool, Leigh, Runcorn & Warrington. Contact us on 0800 002 9577 or start your no win-no fee claim online through our contact page, and we will call you at a time that is convenient for you.