Personal Injury – Physical and Psychological (Mental) Injuries

Often when people think of an “injury”, the first thing that comes to mind is a physical injury or physical harm. However, a large portion of personal injury claims include psychological or mental harm. A psychological injury can be extremely debilitating and can greatly impact someone’s life.

What are examples of types of psychological injuries?

Psychological injuries occur in all types of personal injury matters we deal with. This can apply to motor vehicle accidents, ACT or NSW workplace accidents, sexual abuse cases, Comcare matters, assault, medical negligence and a range of other types of personal injury claims.

Often, there may be an initial physical injury and due to this, a psychological injury develops and becomes a secondary injury to the initial physical injury. For instance, long expose to, or suffering from chronic pain can have a huge impact someone’s mental state.  The law will classify this as a ‘secondary psychological injury’

Additionally, people sometimes suffer a physical and psychological injury simultaneously. For example, in a car accident where physical injuries are sustained, trauma can also be experienced.  If a psychological injury has occurred after a physical injury, or at the same time as one, it is often the case that the physical injury heals faster, leaving the mental injury lasting for a longer period of time.

A psychological injury can occur without a physical injury as well.  It is not essential that there be a physical injury as well.  This is a ‘primary psychological injury’. Typically, we see this following witnessing a traumatic event.

In order for there to be a psychological injury recognized by law, a person must have a diagnosed mental illness.  Grief and sorrow are not sufficient.

How do you prove a psychological injury?

A claim for a psychological injury can be more difficult to determine than a physical injury. Why?  Physical injuries can be tested with things such as x-ray or blood tests.  Psychological injuries can’t.

Because of this, a claim for a psychological injury often involves expert psychologists or psychiatrists to diagnose the type of psychological injury or mental harm that has occurred. Your prior clinical records may also be taken into account to compare your mental state before the accident or injury with your mental state afterwards.

What do I get out of a psychological injury claim?

The types of damages in a claim for psychological injury are similar to those for physical injuries. Past and future treatment costs, including hospitalisation, psychologist appointments, psychiatrist appointments and medications can be claimed. If your psychological injury has prevented or limited you doing things around the home, or you have needed care or assistance from others, you can claim this. A psychological injury can hinder one’s ability to work, so any lost wages in the past, or anticipated lost wages in the future can be claimed.

Another significant portion of what you can claim is the pain and suffering you have experienced as a result of your psychological injury. Inability to socialise or limited socialising, damage to relationships, or an impact on your overall enjoyment and quality of life may be claimed.

It is important to know that different types of claims and different states (or jurisdictions) have particular requirements relating to psychological injuries. We are happy to discuss any potential claims and the requirements of your circumstances.

If you have suffered a personal injury of a mental or psychological nature, contact us on 02 6206 1300.

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