Medical Shock & Stress Related Claims

Bandy's Story

Medical negligence can cause emotional or psychiatric damage to those directly affected or to close relatives who witness the negligent act or its immediate aftermath and have to deal with it A husband or partner present when poor care by midwives means something goes wrong during the delivery of a baby may be just as psychologically damaged as the woman giving birth

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Severe psychological injuries are common in an accident or personal injury claim either to those directly involved or those immediately witnessing a traumatic event, but psychiatric injury can also result from sub-standard or negligent treatment by medical professionals and persist long after a victim recovers physically.

Medical negligence can cause emotional or psychiatric damage to those directly affected or to close relatives who witness the negligent act or its immediate aftermath and have to deal with it. A husband or partner present when poor care by midwives means something goes wrong during the delivery of a baby may be just as psychologically damaged as the woman giving birth.

While it is still feasible for close relations who witness a traumatic event to make a shock-related claim in personal injury cases, a re-interpretation of the law has made it much harder, and in many cases impossible, for relatives to make a claim for psychological injury in a medical negligence case.

You’ll find more information in our guide to who can claim for psychological injury, but generally anyone who directly experiences mental or emotional damage as a consequence of clinical negligence will have a good case for making a claim.

In order to make a successful claim, Access Legal would have to establish that those psychiatric injuries were caused by the negligent act and obtain medical evidence to confirm that the illness was a recognisable psychiatric condition rather than just ‘normal’ shock or grief.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is probably the best known of the reactive psychiatric illnesses, but several other diagnosed depressive disorders, adjustment disorders or anxiety disorders would also qualify as ‘recognisable illnesses’ for which it would be possible to make a claim.

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The law has always distinguished 'recognised psychological illnesses' from shock, fear, anxiety or grief which are regarded as 'normal emotional consequences' and for which damages have never been awarded.

A primary victim - the person directly receiving the negligent treatment who was injured - would have little trouble making a claim provided those psychological injuries were a diagnosed and acknowledged psychiatric illness.

These shock and stress-related illnesses can have a variety of broadly similar symptoms, ranging from being lethargic or feeling irritable and isolated to physical effects such as loss of bladder or bowel control and breathing difficulties. Lives can be ruined by these debilitating illnesses and in the severest cases the victim may never fully recover.

In any stress or shock-related claim it’s necessary to show that the doctor breached their duty of care by their negligent action or inaction. Causation (proving that negligence directly caused your psychiatric illness) is more complicated than proving physical harm in these cases.

It’s easy to show that a surgeon has amputated the wrong leg for example. Although reasonable to assume that psychological harm may also be expected, its existence and direct relation to that event is harder to prove, even on the ‘balance of probabilities’. If you’re unsure whether you do have a case for making a claim, get in touch with Access Legal now to find out.

Making a Medical Negligence Claim FAQs

Secondary Victim Compensation - William's Story

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Man awarded compensation after witnessing the aftermath of his partner setting herself alight while an in-patient at hospital

Man awarded compensation after witnessing the aftermath of his partner setting herself alight while an in-patient at hospital

William’s partner, Jane, who suffered with epilepsy, was admitted to Northampton General Hospital after having a seizure. Despite Jane suffering from irrational and strange behaviour, the hospital did nothing.

Jane was allowed to have her curtains closed and consequently set fire to herself, the impact was devestating.

Read how Access Legal ensured Jane and William received substantial compensation for clinical negligence here.
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Stress Shock Related Illness

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