Psychiatric injury can be an illness or condition recognized by a qualified psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist.  However, while a specific psychiatric diagnosis of the condition that is causing psychological symptoms is preferable, it is no longer a strict legal requirement.  Although they may appear to be doing fine, victims of psychiatric injury can suffer from depression, an anxiety disorder, phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder.

This type of injury can occur from shock, grief, distress, emotional trauma, extended anxiety, chronic pain, health concerns, overwhelming work stress, sleep deprivation or a combination of the above.  Once a patient is diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, it can profoundly affect the quality of life for the patient and their loved ones.  Psychiatric injuries can be directly caused by the physical and emotional trauma suffered by a person who is seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, a slip and fall accident, a hit and run accident or a pedestrian accident. Psychiatric injuries can also arise in the absence of any physical injury.

A psychiatric injury can also occur to a bystander or rescuer by simply watching a traumatic incident unfold.  Such patients are categorized as secondary victims, while the injured person suffering directly is called a primary victim.  Secondary victims may be eligible for compensation for nervous shock if certain conditions are met, depending on each case’s unique circumstances and the relationship between the observer and the primary victim.

The treatment for a psychiatric condition may be long and require ongoing psychiatric assessments, prescription medications and ongoing psychotherapy.  Patients may have difficulties coping with normal life stressors, their work environment, family and other personal relationships, and the uncertainty surrounding the timing of their recovery.  Psychiatric patients also often worry excessively about their inability to carry out many of their normal daily activities.


A psychiatric injury may result in a psychiatric impairment that disables a person from actually carrying out their daily routines and maintaining their usual relationships with family, friends and co-workers.  If the impairment is significant, it may impact all aspects of the person’s life.

Since a psychiatric condition can be very hard to diagnose, a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist’s diagnosis is preferable and can carry significant weight before a court.  Many psychiatric injury cases are complex and issues of causation to the traumatic event are made more difficult by a person’s pre-existing psychiatric symptoms and diagnosis.  Normally, a thorough review of the victim’s pre-accident records from the family doctor and mental health care practitioners will have to be carried out to assist in the causation argument.  Some people suffer from minor forms of depression and anxiety, which renders them more vulnerable to traumatic events and chronic pain.  Prior psychiatric symptoms and a victim’s vulnerability all have to be considered in establishing the role the accident played in exacerbating a minor pre-existing condition.

If you or your loved one has suffered a psychiatric injury in a traumatic accident, Brian A. Horowitz has 35 years of experience can assess your case and advise you on your legal options.  If your injury is caused by another person’s negligence, you may have the right to bring a court action to recover compensation.  For more information, please call Horowitz Injury Law at 416 925 4100 for a free no-obligation consultation with no upfront fees.