Psychological injury after a car accident (Vic)
It is common for people that have been involved in a motor vehicle accidents to suffer some sort of psychological injury.
This page will explore what your options are if this applies to you.
Please note that for the purposes of this page the term psychological injury and psychiatric injury will be used interchangeably to mean the same thing.
Lodge a TAC claim
First and foremost, when you feel ready to do so after a car accident in which you have suffered psychological injury you should lodge a TAC claim.
In almost all cases where someone has been involved in a motor vehicle accident and they suffer injury, or there is the potential for an injury to manifest itself, we recommend the lodgement of a TAC claim.
You can visit this page which will show you step-by-step how to lodge a TAC claim.
In a nutshell however there are a few ways that are TAC claim can be lodged.
The first is by telephoning the TAC and letting them know that you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident and that you wish to lodge a TAC claim. They will assist you over the phone.
The second way is to lodge a claim using the TAC’s online claim lodgement form.
Finally, if you were hospitalised after a motor vehicle accident, the hospital may have lodged a TAC claim on your behalf.
Many hospitals will lodge a TAC claim on a persons behalf because they want to ensure that all related treatment expenses are paid for.
TAC entitlements for psychological injury
Once you have lodged a TAC claim and it has been accepted, you’ll be entitled to the following benefits from TAC;
Medical expenses for psychological injury
If you need medical expenses for the treatment of a psychological injury post motor vehicle accident, it is likely that TAC will be able to assist.
TAC will pay for the reasonable cost of medical expenses. You can read about medical expenses here.
Typical medical expenses that you may want to claim might be GP attendances, medication, attendances on the psychologist or psychiatrist or counsellor.
As mentioned above, the TAC will pay reasonable medical expenses.
So if you wanted to see a psychologist once a week or once a fortnight, this may be considered reasonable. However if you wanted to see the psychologist every day, they would probably reject this.
You can read about income payments in detail here.
In general though what you need to know is that if you’ve suffered a psychiatric or psychological injury after a car accident, you may be entitled for up to 3 years income payments from the TAC.
In some instances that TAC can pay payments beyond the three year mark if you are assessed as having a 50% or greater whole person impairment rating.
It’s important to keep in mind however that very few people reach this threshold.
In order to obtain income payments from the TAC you’ll need to obtain certificates of capacity which you can read about in detail here.
Impairment claim for psychological injury
If you’ve suffered a psychological injury this is the first lump sum claim that you can potentially pursue.
An impairment claim is designed to compensate a person if they have suffered a permanent impairment as a result of the motor vehicle accident.
You can read about impairment claims here.
The process for an impairment claim is as follows:
You would be assessed by an appropriate doctor, in this case a psychiatrist.
If you have a lawyer then they will organise this assessment for you but if you do not have a lawyer the TAC will organise it.
If other injuries were suffered in the accident then you’ll need to see doctors with the appropriate specialities to assess those injuries.
So say for example if you suffered injury to your back or shoulder you may need to see an orthopaedic surgeon.
If you suffered internal problems you may need to see a gastroenterologist.
In order to be entitled to compensation for the purposes of an impairment claim you need to be assessed as having an 11% or greater whole person impairment rating.
All of your impairment assessment figures can be combined.
For example, say that you are assessed as having a 5% psychiatric impairment and a 10% physical injury impairment, these can be added together so you would satisfy the threshold test.
One point worth noting in relation to psychological injury claims is the difference between primary and secondary impairment.
Primary psychological impairment would be if you were involved in a traumatic car accident and following which developed post traumatic stress disorder.
Secondary psychological impairment would be if in a car accident you suffered a physical injury, say to your back, and then consequential to that back injury you developed a psychological condition such as depression or anxiety.
For the purposes of an impairment claim, you can be compensated for primary psychological impairment, however not for secondary psychological impairment.
The psychiatrist that you see will need to determine what your primary psychological injury whole person impairment is, and if there is a secondary psychological injury, this will need to disentangled.
Common law damages for psychological injury
The second and final lump sum open to people to pursue if they been involved in a motor vehicle accident is a common law damages claim.
You can read about these in detail here.
In order to succeed in these claims a person with a psychological injury must show two things.
The first is that they have suffered a serious injury as a consequence of the accident.
The second is that there was negligent on behalf of another party. That is, another party contributed to the accident as a consequence of their negligence.
In relation to serious injury, there are two ways of a person with a psychological injury can show that they have a serious injury.
The first is that, in relation to their impairment claim, they have been assessed as having a 30% or greater whole person impairment rating. This is not common.
The second way is if for you to paint a before and after picture as to how you were before the accident and how you are now.
Generally speaking, the bigger the difference between your before and after pictures, the more likely you are to be considered as having a serious injury.
You can be compensated for two heads of damages under a common law claim.
The first is for pain and suffering and the second is for loss of earnings.
Pain and suffering is designed to compensate you for the pain and suffering that you have gone through and will go through into the future as a result of the accident.
Loss of earnings is to compensate you for any lost earnings as a consequence of the accident both to the date that your lump sum matter resolved and into the future, potentially to retirement age.
One thing worth pointing out when it comes to common law claims for psychological injury is that they are often less likely to succeed than a physical injury claim.
This is because the threshold is higher to obtain a serious injury certificate than it is for a physical injury.
And also, there is more likely to be a dispute regarding the impact that an accident has had on a person.
Are there any other options other than pursuing a TAC claim?
If you are undecided as to whether you want to lodge a TAC claim for a psychological injury, then we would encourage you to read this page.
However, if you really do not want to lodge a TAC claim, if you need medical treatment you should see your general practitioner.
They can provide you with a referral that will allow you to get a few counselling sessions for free if you need them.
If you exhaust the sessions and require more treatment, you can go back to your GP and obtain another referral for more treatment.
If you do not have a TAC claim you will not be entitled to income payments if you can’t work or your ability to work is restricted.
However, you can take sick leave from work or access annual leave or long service leave if you have the agreement of your employer to do so.
However, we do not recommend that people that have been involved in a motor vehicle accidents and we need time off work, to use their employment entitlements.
You can potentially pursue an income protection or TPD claim but generally speaking we do not recommend that people do so if I need assistance after motor vehicle accidents.
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and you have suffered psychological injury, in almost all instances we would recommend the lodgement of a TAC claim.
Under a TAC claim if you’ve suffered a psychological injury, you can obtain medical expenses. So, you can get GP attendances paid for and any psychological treatment that you may need, including medication.
If your ability to work has been impacted following the accident because of your psychological injury (or a combination of injuries) you can obtain income payments for up to 3 years post accident and in a limited number of instances, beyond three years.
There’s also two lump sum claims that you can potentially pursue if you have have suffered a psychological injury.