Q&A Can I claim compensation for PTSD caused by witnessing car crash scene?

Q:      My wife was involved in a serious crash when a lorry collided with her. She phoned me in distress, and I immediately drove to be with her to wait for the emergency services. I arrived within minutes and what I saw was horrifying. The car was mangled, and my wife was trapped inside, bleeding heavily and telling me she thought she was going to die. It was like something from a horror film.

My wife has suffered life changing injuries, and we will be making a claim for compensation once she is on the road to recovery. Since the accident, I have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brought on by what I saw on that day. Even though I was not involved in the accident, can I also make a claim?

A:       Yes, you can make a claim in your own right, as a secondary victim. Although you were not directly involved in the accident and you have not suffered a physical injury, you have suffered psychologically from what you witnessed.

Certain criteria must be met to claim compensation as a secondary victim. Firstly, you must have a close tie of love and affection to the immediate victim (i.e. your wife), have been close in time and space to the incident or the aftermath and have been there within minutes. Clearly you can satisfy all this. The second criteria is that a psychiatric injury was foreseeable in a person of normal susceptibility. Thirdly, your psychiatric injury was induced by a sudden horrifying event. Fourthly, yours, and others witness evidence will be critical, to describe the horrific nature of what you saw and experienced. Finally, medical evidence will be required to confirm your diagnosis of PTSD and to give a prognosis.

Secondary victim claims are a complex area of law, so you should speak to a local solicitor who will guide you through the process of making a claim.

This question has been answered by Claire Parfitt, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194

Claire Parfitt

Claire Parfitt


Solicitor within our Civil Litigation team in Wrexham and Oswestry