While many people understand that you can make a claim for compensation if you are the victim of an accident that wasn’t your fault, they are less clear when it comes to witnessing such a thing.
The truth is that, as long as certain criteria are met, it is possible to claim for compensation if you witness an accident and it affects you in a detrimental way.
The law was changed a while back, shortly after the Hillsborough disaster. A witness to the events on that tragic day were left with some pretty big psychological scars, particularly if they saw a loved one either injured or killed.
This led to the new notion of a secondary victim, someone who isn’t physically injured but none the less is affected by what they have seen.
Meeting the Guidelines for Witness Compensation
There are a number of criteria that someone has to meet if they want to make a claim for compensation after they have witnessed an accident. These are:
- First of all, there needs to be a connection that is built on love and affection when it comes to the primary victim or the person who is injured.
- The person claiming as a secondary victim must previously be considered someone with a ‘reasonable fortitude’. This means they are considered resilient and not normally affected by such things.
- The person claiming must have witnessed the event or the immediate moments after the accident.
- They must have an understanding or perception of the harm that was caused to the primary victim.
As you might expect, the most common type of problem witnesses tends to develop is psychological in nature. Post-traumatic stress disorder is not uncommon in these circumstances and can manifest in many different ways.
This can include flashbacks and intrusive thoughts concerning the accident, including nightmares. It can exhibit in the form of increased anxiety or issues such as panic attacks or depression, even leading to self-destructive behaviour. It can damage personal relationships and lead to problem behaviours such as taking drink or drugs to numb the psychological pain.
Obviously, this and any other type of psychological damage will need to be assessed by a fully qualified healthcare professional. A person who has a witnessed an accident may need ongoing therapy for some time, depending on the severity of the incident and its impact on their lives.
Contacting a Personal Injury Solicitor
If you have witnessed an accident and it has left you with psychological damage, the first thing you need to do is make an appointment with your GP to discuss the issue. You should also reach out to a personal injury solicitor who will be able to assess your case and tell you if you have a right to make a claim.
Most personal injury solicitors operate a no win no fee service which means you don’t have to find any money for the legal proceedings until the case is successfully settled in your favour. Getting the right psychological support is also going to be important, however, helping you to come to terms with what you have witnessed and work out methods to cope with your feelings and emotions.