What is a “Psychological Injury” And Can You Claim Compensation?

If you experience or witness a serious injury or death during a motor vehicle accident or a workplace accident, the stress, anxiety, grief and trauma that often results can be debilitating. Bullying, discrimination, harassment and day-to-day stress in the workplace can also cause what are called “psychological injuries”.

Fortunately, you may be able to access compensation for your psychological injury. The pathway for doing so depends on the kind of mental harm you have experienced and under what circumstances.

What Defines a Psychological Injury?

Psychological injuries from experiencing a serious accident and other trauma can manifest a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • flashbacks or nightmares of or about the incident
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • hypervigilance
  • insomnia
  • suicidal thoughts
  • agoraphobia

The actual psychiatric illness sustained from traumatic events fall into three main categories – post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or adjustment disorder. Experiencing the above symptoms after a traumatic incident might mean you are suffering from one of those psychiatric illnesses.

How the Claim Process Works

The claim process will differ depending on the circumstances that cause the psychological injury. For example, if the incident was a motor vehicle accident, the legislation that deals with claims is different to an accident in a public place, a workplace accident or work-related stress.

The court may assess whether the psychological injury resulted from a sudden shock or traumatic event, whether there was a relationship between claimant and defendant and whether the defendant owed the claimant a duty of care which they breached.

To successfully make a claim, somebody needs to be at fault. In a work situation, this would usually be an employer, while in other cases it would usually be whoever caused the accident, such as another driver or the person responsible for the property the incident occurred on (see public liability claims).

Psychological Injuries in the Workplace

Claims relating to mental harm in the workplace often arise from traumatic events in which someone is assaulted, injured or killed as well as bullying, harassment and workplace stress. The latter is particularly difficult in terms of establishing negligence.

Part of the reason is the intangible nature of the injury; however, a major issue is the victim’s reluctance to tell others (particularly their employer) out of fear of losing their job as well as the stigma surrounding mental health. In these cases, being upfront about the matter is important for the success of a claim otherwise the employer, for example, could simply state that they were unaware of your mental state, making it difficult to establish negligence.

Making claims against what is considered “reasonable management action” are also unlikely to succeed. This includes action taken by an employer against the employee, such as disciplining, dismissing, demoting or transferring them.

The Importance of Legal Support

Compensation claims for psychological injuries are fraught with legal grey areas and hurdles. It’s a newer area of compensation area and, unlike personal injury claims, the success of a psychological injury claim relies on your ability to establish a duty of care and a breach of it which caused the injury.

Don’t deal with the process on your own. Speak to an experienced compensation lawyer as soon as possible. If you’re from Queensland and would like to discuss your case with someone, get in touch with the team at Brisbane Injury Lawyers. We offer a “no win, no fee” service. Call today on (07) 3171 9313 or contact us online.