Assessing psychological or psychiatric injuries following an accident
The relevant legislation in New South Wales covering motor vehicle accidents is the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999. Injury is defined in that legislation as follows:
“injury” means personal or bodily injury and includes:
(b) psychological or psychiatric injury.
A person who is injured in a motor vehicle accident may suffer physical injury and subsequently develop psychiatric impairment as a result of the effect on their life of their physical injury.
In other instances a person may develop nervous shock or post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the trauma suffered during or as a result of a motor vehicle accident, without having suffered permanent physical injury.
Then again, close family members of a person killed in a motor vehicle accident may develop nervous shock as a result of the trauma of the death of their family member.
Psychiatric impairment can be difficult to assess. An assessor who is an accredited Specialist Psychiatrist will review all treating reports, take a history from the injured person as to their past functioning, whether they have ever suffered from a prior psychiatric illness and in relation to the effects on the person of the accident. The Psychiatrist will also take a history of symptoms and of treatment. The Psychiatrist will ask about the person’s current symptoms and will then carry out a clinical examination.
The Psychiatrist will provide a diagnosis, comment on the permanency of impairment, and then determine the degree of permanent impairment, if any, using the Psychiatric Impact Ratings Scales.
The Psychiatrist must consider the level of impairment in relation to the following criteria:
- Self care and personal hygiene
- Social & recreational activities
- Social Functioning
- Concentration, persistence and pace
In order to be entitled to compensation for general damages or non-economic loss a Claimant must be assessed as having permanent impairment in excess of 10% Whole Person Impairment as a result of their injury.
If you, or a member of your family have been injured in a motor vehicle accident you could be entitled to compensation. You can contact Stacks Goudkamp on 1800 25 1800 or by making an online enquiry, to obtain friendly advice about your circumstances from one of our compensation experts.
Written by Sue Owen.
Sue Owen is a solicitor in Ian Chipchase and Anna Tavianatos’ Practice Group. Sue works with Ian and Anna on a variety of compensation claims including workers compensation claims, motor vehicle accidents and civil liability claims.