Psychological Injuries in Personal Injury Claims

With the ongoing campaign by the healthcare community regarding the importance of mental health, it is no surprise that psychological injuries have been recognized by Ontario courts as an important aspect of personal injury claims.

In the context of a personal injury claim, a psychological injury could be any type of mental disorder or suffering caused by someone else’s negligence. Our Richmond Hill personal injury lawyers are available to address your questions about psychological injuries in personal injury claims.

Causes of psychological injuries in personal injury claims

Psychological injuries in personal injury claims often arise from a head injury.  Physical changes to the brain can lead to any number of psychological diagnoses.

Psychological injuries, particularly depressive and anxiety disorders, have also been known to arise over time following a personal injury due to ongoing or chronic pain and associated lifestyle changes.

Lastly, the courts have acknowledged that psychological injury can occur independently of any physical injury. Examples of this could be:

  • a witness to an accident or violent act, or
  • the victim of non-physical abuse or harassment.

Common psychological injuries 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Acknowledged by the courts both in conjunction with and independent of a physical injury, PTSD is one of the most common psychological injuries seen in personal injury claims.  Although everyone is different, PTSD can be characterized by:intrusive symptoms, such as flashbacks or nightmares

  • feelings of nervousness, anxiety and irritability
  • feelings of numbness, disconnectedness or detachment
  • changes in thought and mood
  • increased dependence on drugs or alcohol.

Depressive Disorders: Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness and a lack of energy for a prolonged period of time. It can severely impact all aspects of the affected person’s life.

Anxiety Disorders: This category of mental illness covers a variety of specific disorders including:

  • panic disorder
  • phobias, including agoraphobia
  • social anxiety disorder
  • generalized anxiety disorder, which is characterized by excessive worry over even minor issues.

Chronic Pain: Mental health and physical health are linked in such a way that mental illness has been known to lead to chronic physical conditions and chronic physical conditions have been known to lead to mental illness. In a personal injury context, a chronic physical injury often leads to chronic pain syndrome, which is a psychological diagnosis.

How do you prove a psychological injury in court?

A psychological injury, much like a physical injury, is proven in court through use of expert testimony and expert reports.  A diagnosis from a qualified health professional is needed.

Damages for psychological injury

The courts in Ontario have ordered a wide variety of compensation in personal injury cases involving psychological injury.  The amount of damages you might expect to receive will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • the effect of the psychological injury on all aspects of your life
  • the degree of permanence of the psychological injury
  • any other injuries you also sustained in the accident or incident
  • your health prior to the accident or incident.

Court orders involving psychological injuries are highly fact-specific.  Our Richmond Hill personal injury lawyers can advise you on the best course of action in your situation.  Contact us today!

*Disclaimer: Please note the content in this article is not intended to act as legal advice. For specific legal guidance on any psychological injury claims we encourage you to speak with a personal injury lawyer.