The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) are launching a campaign to widen the legal definition under which victims are entitled to compensation for psychiatric damage after witnessing the death or injury of a close relative, the guardian reported last week.
Following the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989, the conditions set were that “close ties of love and affection” exist automatically between parents, children, spouses and fiancés only. This definition therefore excludes civil partners, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren, colleagues and friends.
APIL will also lobby for change in the stipulation that the cause of any psychiatric trauma must be triggered by a “shocking” event and that the witness has to have been “close in time and space” to the incident.
It is argued that change is necessary because psychiatric illness can be every bit as debilitating as a physical injury, it can often develop over time, and that that the definition “distressing” is more appropriate than “shocking.”
In a press statement APIL’s president, Matthew Stockwell, called the current definitions “archaic and inflexible.”
He commented that “People who are suffering and very vulnerable are subjected to unfair and unrealistic demands to prove they are eligible to make a claim for compensation to help put their lives back on track.”
“You don’t need to actually see someone you love killed to be deeply affected by it. If the death or injury happened because of negligence, and real psychiatric harm is suffered as a result then the person who suffers that harm should be able to claim compensation without jumping through unrealistic legal hoops.”
“If you witness the death of your loved one on the television, hear about it on Facebook or see it on Skype and suffer psychiatric injury, why are you unable to obtain the financial support necessary to put your life back together again?”
“The law has not kept pace with the realities of modern life.”
NW Law are members of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers,which is a not-for-profit campaign organisation that has been fighting for the rights of injured people for well over 20 years.
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