Psychiatric injury claims for death caused by a road traffic collision
I recently settled claims for the parents of a five-year-old boy who was killed in a road traffic accident. The mother was collecting their son along with their six-year-old daughter from school when he ran into the road and was hit by a lorry. The mother saw the full and raw horror of her son being injured and dying from his injuries. The father witnessed the immediate aftermath when he attended the scene having been notified of what had happened and saw his son’s body in the road. The accident scene described by the paramedics are too graphic to repeat.
It was undoubtedly an incredibly traumatic and shocking experience for both of them. Both were overcome with grief and incapable of carrying out activities of daily living or looking after their other children. Their family life changed and each were afraid of discussing their feelings or the death for the fear of upsetting the other so that they drifted apart whilst still living under the same roof.
The parents and their daughter were diagnosed with severe “post-traumatic stress disorder”, but found it difficult to engage with treatment due to their extreme conditions. The parents became withdrawn and scared all the time, fearing that they or their children would die. They were overprotective of their children and avoided going out unless it was absolutely necessary. To this day they have been unable to visit the accident site. Their grief was so profound and its seems it was only their children and faith the prevented them from taking their lives.
They became desperate to have another child, another son to whom they could give the same name as their deceased child and who they thought could replace their son. Sadly, the mother experienced fertility issues and suffered a miscarriage before giving birth to a daughter two years later.
I was instructed to deal with compensation claims, but their main purpose for contacting us was to get justice for their son’s death. They were understandably very angry and wanted the driver to receive the harshest punishment possible, though even that would not be enough. However, like most claimants, especially those suffering psychiatric injuries, they found ligation very stressful. They would in the earlier days, avoid phone calls and correspondence from me. The mother in particular, dreaded any letters bearing with my firm’s logo. Notwithstanding their obvious difficulties, I was able to support them through the criminal proceedings and eventually deal with their civil claims.
Whilst liability for the mother’s claim was admitted, it was disputed for the father’s claim, though the insurers eventually caved in. Causation and quantum were in issue for both claims. The father has a rare pre-existing heart condition which caused him some anxiety and depression, but not at the same level suffered post the loss of his son. The mother suffered some pre-existing anxiety related to her husband’s condition, but not at the same level following the tragedy.
In addition to claiming for damages for severe post-traumatic stress disorde, we claimed for future family counselling, individual counselling as well as couples’ counselling to be provided flexibly as and when the parents feel able to see the counsellor rather than on a structured once a week or once a month basis. Before the tragedy occurred, the father had booked a Hajj trip (a once in a life time pilgrimage to Mecca made by Muslims who can afford it). The mother had no plans to do so, but following the tragedy, with support from friends and family she was able to accompany her husband. This expense was claimed for as part of the claim, though there was a potential argument that she would have incurred this expense, in any event, but at a much later date. Claims for care, travel and other miscellaneous expenses were also included.
We were eventually able to settle on global basis, which will hopefully enable my clients to move forward with their lives.