Nervous shock in Tort

Introduction to Nervous Shock in Tort Law

Nervous Shock in Tort Law

Under Personal Injury Claims, Nervous shock is a psychiatric illness that occurs when a person witnesses an accident or its aftermath as a bystander. Nervous shock as the name suggests is the result of the shock of witnessing the accident. The Hillsborough disaster has played an important role, legally, to set the legal standards for contemporary English law on the psychiatric illness of nervous shock and standard of proof required to succeed in a claim for damages.

Introduction to claims under Psychiatric Illness

In the English legal system, no damages are awarded for grief or sorrow caused by a person’s death. However, where a person who suffers psychiatric illness as a result of having been physically injured by the defendant or where he is been placed in physical danger and suffers from a psychiatric illness, as a result, can claim damages.

  • Martin is involved in an accident. He has suffered injuries and developed psychiatric. As a victim of an accident and personal injury, he can also claim for Psychiatric illness.
  • Julie has witnessed the death of her daughter and subsequently has developed the psychiatric
  • Frank a rescuer attended a fire disaster at a tower block and witnessed the death and demise of the occupants. He has developed a psychiatric illness.

A person who suffers from psychiatric illness by witnessing the death, injury or imperilment of another person and with whom he/she has a close relationship of love and affection can also claim damages for psychiatric illness resulting from witnessing such event.

Meaning of Close relationship

A spouse, parents, and children are presumed to have a close relationship of love and affection. For anybody else who just witnessed the incident and suffered from Psychiatric illness has to show the closeness of the relationship and must bring evidence to prove such close ties of love and affection.

  • Anil attended the hospital, where his son was brought after a car accident and witnessed his death. He subsequently developed a psychiatric illness. Anil as a father may have a successful claim for damages, as a father he does not have to prove close ties or relationships of love and affection.
  • Chris witnessed a road traffic accident and the death of his friend and developed a psychiatric illness in order to claim damages for psychiatric illness Chris has to prove a relationship of close ties, affection, and love.


Courts have treated Rescuers favorably; a person also owes a duty of care to rescuers as it is his/her acts or omissions which may have resulted in the occurrence of a tragedy. Any rescuer who subsequently develops a psychiatric illness by witnessing the tragedy and conducting rescue operation is likely to have a successful claim for damages without having to prove any relationship of love or affection with victims.

Communicator of the shocking news

The communicator of the shocking news, when disclosed appropriately, will not be held responsible for any psychiatric harm. However, if the shocking news is disclosed in an inappropriate manner or a manner which resulted in a nervous shock for the recipient then the communicator of the shocking news will be held responsible. This is the very reason there are trained people within the police, social services, and health department who communicate the shocking news to relatives, parents, and other associated people.

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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Each legal case and issue may have unique facts and circumstances, as a result legallex does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information provided. For further help and guidance, you can always rely on and seek advice from our experienced lawyers.

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