PERSONAL INJURIES: High Court allows for recovery in case of severe depression caused by shock of accident

When someone is in a particularly horrific accident, the entitlement to recover compensation may also be extended to their close family members, in cases where the shock of hearing of the incident has caused them to suffer from psychiatric harm.

Such claims are becoming increasingly common in the courts. The principles behind this growing area of law were outlined by the High Court in the recent case of Purcell v Long [2015] IEHC 385.

In this tragic case, a mother ‘who could not cope with the pain of her grief’ and began to harm herself after her son died in a road traffic accident.

The woman had suffered from depression before the accident but this was severely exacerbated from the shock of hearing her son had passed. The Court accepted the woman’s evidence that the accident had caused her to become suicidal and that she would require medication for the rest of her life.

The High Court awarded the woman over €225,000 as compensation for her suffering.