Psychiatric damage suffered by road accident victims can be just as serious, if not more so, than their physical injuries. In one case, a nurse who was traumatised for months following her involvement in a pile-up was awarded more than £40,000 in compensation.
She was in her 40s when a car ran into the back of her vehicle at speed, giving rise to an almighty bang. Another vehicle went into the back of the first. The nurse thought that there had been an explosion. She then saw an armed, black-clad policeman running towards her, who was present because a VIP was due to visit the area.
After the woman launched proceedings, the other motorist's insurers admitted liability in full for the accident but disputed the amount of her damages award. Ruling on her claim, the High Court found that whiplash injuries to her neck, shoulder and lower back had resulted in persistent pain and required her to take four months off work. Her physical symptoms had lasted for around 18 months.
Turning to her psychiatric injuries, the Court found that the two loud bangs caused by the double collision could reasonably have given rise to the thought that there had been an explosion. Her concern on seeing the policeman was understandable but, as he was seeking to help her, that would have been short-lived.
Shaken by the accident, she became anxious about driving and hypervigilant when travelling in a car. She had suffered an adjustment reaction which lasted for about nine months. The Court awarded her £20,000 for her physical injuries and £10,000 for her psychiatric upset. Her total award, including the cost of repairing her car, hiring a replacement vehicle, and lost earnings, came to £40,499.