*The contents in this blog relates to legislation in New South Wales.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident after 1 December 2017, your entitlement to compensation is governed by the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017.  Your compensation entitlements differ depending on whether you are found to have a minor or non-minor injury.

Your entitlement to compensation will be cut off after 26 weeks from the date of your accident unless you can show that you have a non-minor injury.

A person who is injured in a motor vehicle accident can have both physical and psychological injuries. The Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 explains what is considered a minor psychological injury.

What is a Minor Psychological Injury?

Being involved in a motor vehicle accident is a stressor and depending on the seriousness of the accident, individuals are likely to suffer from a range of psychological or psychiatric consequences.

Most people experience psychological distress associated with motor vehicle accident such as feelings of shock, fear, anxiety, and sadness. The Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 differentiates between a minor and non-minor psychological or psychiatric injury as “a psychological or psychiatric injury that is not a recognised psychiatric illness”.

The Motor Accident Injuries Regulation 2017 specifies that a recognised psychiatric illness is a category of mental disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-V).[1]

In addition, the Motor Accident Injuries Regulation 2017 specifies that some psychological or psychiatric injuries, such as acute stress disorder and adjustment disorder, are minor injuries even though they are recognised psychiatric illnesses.

You must be able to prove that you are suffering from more than feelings of fright and sadness, and be diagnosed with a psychological condition other than acute stress disorder or adjustment disorder, to be entitled to compensation for your injuries after the first 26 weeks following the subject accident.

A diagnosis of a psychological condition such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder resulting from the subject accident is considered to be a non-minor injury.

Examples of recognised psychiatric illness arising from motor vehicle accident

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have been exposed to a traumatic event such as motor vehicle accident. If you persistently experience the following symptoms, it may be an indication that you have developed a PTSD:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Avoidance behaviour
  • Feelings of detachment and estrangement

Major Depressive Disorder

When a person is involved in a motor vehicle accident, they may develop symptoms of depression due to pain associated with physical injuries, incapacity to return to pre-injury employment and/or lifestyle. It is important to note however that depression is different from mere feelings of sadness or grief.

Here are some of the symptoms of major depressive disorder:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities
  • Significant unintentional weight loss/gain
  • A sense of worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness
  • Inability to concentrate, make decisions or decreased memory span
  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep
  • Agitation, irritability

What you should do now

If you have sustained psychological injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident and the CTP insurer has denied liability for your claim after the first 26 weeks, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

There are strict timeframes in which to challenge the insurance company’s decision and you should not delay seeking legal advice about it.

At Turner Freeman Lawyers, we are focussed on achieving the best possible outcome for our clients. We have a team of expert lawyers who can help you understand the legal process and ensure efficient resolution of the claim.

[1] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 5th ed., 2013).