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Accident impacts on witnesses and family members

Personal Injury Lawyer – loss and trauma

Sometimes accidents can have a debilitating effect not only on the victims of injury, but also on close family or witnesses to the incident.

The witness or close family member of the victim may experience symptoms of secondary trauma, which often mimic those of post-traumatic stress disorder. Experts suggest that this insidious form of stress can be as debilitating as experiencing the trauma in person.

Those experiencing symptoms of secondary trauma should speak to their doctor about coping strategies and seek professional counseling where possible. This will assist them in managing the potential health impacts and help prevent the development of ongoing mental injuries.

If a person has experienced the sudden death or significant injury of a family member, they may also be deprived of the financial support or care that they would have received but for the victim’s injuries.

There may be compensation available if the death or injury was the result of another’s negligence. This could include compensation for financial losses, care, medical and funeral expenses. There may also be separate compensation available for witnesses or family members who are diagnosed with consequential mental harm.
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All at sea in plane crash compensation dispute

In Pel-Air Aviation Pty Ltd v Casey [2017] NSWCA 32, a nurse (the Plaintiff) employed by CareFlight NSW was a passenger in an aircraft which plunged into the sea during bad weather.

She spent around 90 minutes in the water before she was rescued, suffering severe personal injuries, both physical and psychological.

The Plaintiff was unable work due to her injuries and successfully sued for compensation. As the Plaintiff was severely debilitated and unable to manage the funds awarded, the trial judge also allowed for the cost of funds management. However this cost was awarded at NSW Trustee rates, rather than the higher rates of the private funds manager the Plaintiff had chosen (through her tutor).

Both parties appealed the decision. The Defendant argued that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was not a bodily injury covered by the 1999 Montreal Convention relating to international carriage by air. It also challenged the compensation amount awarded for non-economic loss, care, treatment and funds management on the basis that PTSD should be excluded.
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