Tort Essay-Nervous Shock
Recovery for nervous shock and psychiatric harm is a challenging concept of tort law which is difficult to comprehend and I believe it is very well explained by Lord Steyn in Frost v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police where he says it is;“a patchwork quilt of distinctions that are difficult to justify”. There are many factors to be considered in recovering compensation for nervous shock and I will be analysing these in my essay, I will also be referring to cases in which these factors played a crucial part in the final decision. Firstly, I am going to look at what criteria must first be met to claim damages for post-traumatic stress disorder in Ireland. If a person suffers from these then they may claim damages from whoever’s negligent act did so. I believe these points are very clear and well chosen;
* The exposure to the stress or trauma from which someone suffers must be outside of any normal experience * The person suffers from encountering flashbacks of the incident * The person avoids things that may remind them of the incident, e.g. a certain object or location * The person suffers from sleep disturbances or has outbursts of anger or paranoia * The final point, and most important, is that these all must occur for at least a one month period So while the law does not give damages for grief or other emotional distress which any normal person experiences when someone he or she loves is killed or injured, it does give damages for psychiatric illness, resulting from shock. Like in many concepts of law the Irish and English courts tend to have different methods of approach. Traditionally, the English courts have been more reluctant than the Irish courts to allow recovery for nervous shock. In my opinion, it is fair to say that Irish tort law has always been ahead of common law jurisdictions and two leading Irish cases placed the Irish jurisprudence in the vanguard of law in this precise area. The first case was Byrne v Southern & Western Ry. Co.
This case involved a train which had crashed through the wall of a telegraph office at Limerick Junction after a railway point had been negligently left open. The plaintiff, who was a railway worker on hearing the noise and seeing the wall of the office collapse “sustained a nervous shock which resulted in certain injuries to his health”. The plaintiff sued the Railway Co. and obtained a substantial award of damages.
The second case, Bell v Great Northern Ry. Co. followed Byrnes case, and from that time onward damages for pure nervous shock were recoverable. Both these cases are important in the history of Irish tort law as they were the first cases allowing plaintiffs recover damages for nervous shock and are both subsequently now cited regularly with approval in leading English and Irish cases regarding nervous shock.
These two cases which I have just mentioned registered the principle concept of being able to recover damages for nervous shock. However, both these cases occurred back in the late 1800’s so since then many modifications have been made as would be expected. When nervous shock suffered from the negligence from someone else was come across first in tort law the adopted principle was simple; a person who suffered nervous shock leading to psychiatric injury could recover damages from him whose negligence caused this shock. This in my opinion was a very simple principle as are most when they are first introduced so rightfully it was enhanced and changed over the years. As time went on the courts rightfully began to believe that this principle was too vague and ranged too wide so they sought to introduce “factors” to which people must correspond with to recover the compensation. They had to decide what group of people deserved compensation and who didn’t; should a person who witnessed an accident involving a relative and suffer from nervous shock be entitled to recover damages etc. The first main...
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