Can Witnesses Make a Claim for Compensation?

11 MAY 2021


If you have witnessed a motor vehicle accident, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. In a recent case, a witness who “heard” but did not “see” an accident, was successful in claiming compensation for the psychological injuries she suffered as a result of witnessing the accident. 

In November 2016, the Plaintiff was getting into her parked car when she heard a person scream for help. The Plaintiff realised that a vehicle had hit a pedestrian. As a result of “hearing” the accident, the Plaintiff developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), and made a claim against the driver of the vehicle.  

The driver’s insurer argued that because the Plaintiff did not “see” the pedestrian being hit by the vehicle and only “heard” him scream for help, she had not developed PTSD as a result of “witnessing” the accident, which was a necessary condition for the Plaintiff’s claim for compensation. It was suggested that the Plaintiff’s PTSD arose because she was required to provide a description of the accident to the pedestrian’s solicitors.

The Court did not accept this argument, deciding that the Plaintiff was a “witness” to the accident and that the driver owed the Plaintiff a duty of care not to cause her mental harm. The driver had breached that duty when he reversed his vehicle without reasonable care, striking the pedestrian. The Plaintiff was successful in her claim and was awarded $176,312.43. 

*This case occurred in the ACT but similar provisions apply in NSW.

If you have any queries in relation to the above, or wish to speak to a friendly member of our Injury Compensation Team, please do not hesitate to contact our office on (02) 4626 5077.

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.     

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POSTED: 31 May 2021
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