Personal Injury News

Car Accident Injury Lawyers Can Obtain Compensation For Nervous Shock

In one of the best examples of remote nervous shock   is the case of a Vancouver mother  injured  in a car accident  near Golden, British Columbia while on her way to Banff on a holiday trip with her family and friends. She was in the right rear seat, and her daughter, aged nine, was in the centre of the rear seat.  Their vehicle crossed the centre line and collided with an oncoming vehicle. The claimant was knocked unconscious and tragically her daughter died three days later in hospital. 
 After the collision, the claimant recalled seeing a person on a stretcher on the ground beside the automobile.  She did not know who it was and could not recall seeing her daughter. She was not told of her daughter’s death until a few days later.  She explained her emotional response on learning of the donation of her daughter’s organs by stating that she found out that it had taken three days for her daughter to die and she had never been given the opportunity to see her and say goodbye properly.
 Regarding the mothers claim of “nervous shock” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Clancy, concluded that it was reasonably foreseeable that the negligence of the driver could cause psychiatric injury to the claimant.  Furthermore, it is foreseeable that emotional or psychological injury will be done to a mother whose child has been killed in circumstances such as those here.  There was a sufficiently close relationship between the mother and negligent driver to establish a duty of care. 
 If the mother had not been knocked unconscious in the accident, it seems inevitable that recovery for her psychiatric injury would have followed.  Had she observed the death of her daughter, it would most certainly have been alarming, frightening and horrifying.
 However, Justice Clancy observed that denying compensation to the mother would lead to the unusual finding that by inflicting greater injury on a claimant, a defendant could limit his liability.
The court concluded that the aftermath of the accident must include learning of the accident after emerging from a period of unconsciousness especially where the claimant was herself injured in the accident.  That would be as alarming, frightening, unexpected and horrifying as observing the accident.
The court applied the B.C. Court of Appeal decision of  Devji v. District of Burnaby (19 October 1999) which followed Athey v. Leonati, [1997] 1 W.W.R. 97, 3 S.C.R. 458 (Supreme Court of Canada), and held that proof of precise causation between the shock and the psychiatric illness is not necessary.  It is sufficient that shock was a materially contributing factor.
The judge  also referred to Devji  in stating that the term “nervous shock” has been largely abandoned in favour of “psychiatric injury”.
 The claimant was awarded  loss of future contributions from her daughter, pain, suffering and loss of amenities, loss of future income, past loss of income, cost of future care, the services of a financial manager and court order interest at the Registrar’s rates in respect of pecuniary damages.  This case as being relied upon by Posted By Mr. Renn A. Holness


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