Motor Accident Compensation

Motor Accident Compensation: Psychological Injuries

TGB's Tim White writes about how psychological injuries arising from a motor accident are now assessed under new South Australian laws.

TGB’s Tim White writes about how psychological injuries arising from a motor accident are now assessed under new South Australian laws.


 

People injured in a road accident in South Australia on or after 1 July 2013 will now face reduced entitlements, mostly due to the introduction of significant thresholds.

These thresholds apply equally to physical and psychiatric injuries, and a person may only be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering and future loss of income if their injury is assessed as reaching or exceeding the threshold.

To be compensated for pain and suffering as a consequence of a psychological injury you must have sustained a psychiatric impairment.  A psychiatric impairment has been defined as meaning “pure mental harm”.

Pure mental harm, for the purposes of determining whether or not a injured person exceeds the necessary threshold by way of a permanent impairment, is assessed under GEPIC.  GEPIC means the Guide to Evaluation of Psychiatric Impairment for Clinicians. View the GEPIC here (scroll to page 40).

If a person has suffered pure mental harm, namely no other physical injury as a consequence of the motor vehicle accident but only a psychiatric injury, the individual may be entitled to a permanent impairment assessment for that injury.

The GEPIC table takes into account impairment with factors such as intelligence, thinking, perception, judgment, mood and behaviour to determine the extent of any permanent impairment.

Under the relevant regulations “consequential mental harm” is treated very differently.  Consequential mental harm applies when a person suffers mental harm following a physical injury. For example, a person is debilitated by a back injury and as a consequence develops a depressive disorder. In these circumstances a court must treat the consequential mental harm merely as a feature of the physical injury.  Therefore an individual that suffers consequential mental harm is most likely not entitled to a separate permanent impairment assessment in relation to that psychiatric incapacity/injury.

How a court deals with the differences between pure mental harm and consequential mental harm will be interesting.  These are very complex terms for a court to determine and time will tell how this plays out.

Due to the complexities involved, if you have suffered psychological symptoms as a consequence of the involvement in a road accident or due to your physical injuries arising from the road accident, you should seek legal advice to determine fully your actual entitlements to compensation.

TGB is South Australia’s largest injury law firm. For a free initial interview about your motor accident compensation claim, contact Tim on (08) 8212 1077.