$10,000 Award For Nervous Shock For Witnessing Immediate Aftermath Of Collision

In Ulmer v. Weidmann, the Plaintiff’s husband was killed as a motorcyclist in a collision with a motor vehicle. The Plaintiff’s husband had been traveling in the curb lane on his motorcycle prior to entering an intersection, however collided with a left turning vehicle, causing his death. The Plaintiff, in addition to making claims under the Family Compensation Act, made an ICBC claim for nervous shock and other emotional and psychological injuries for witnessing the immediate aftermath of the collision,  for seeing her husband laying on the road bleeding and dying, and for seeing her husband in the hospital after he passed away. The Court awarded the Plaintiff $10,000.00 for approximately six months of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

[99]           From the reasoning in these cases and other cases cited therein the following elements of the cause of action for nervous shock have been established:

 

(a)      the defendant must take reasonable care not to injure those persons who are so closely and directly affected by his/her actions that he/she ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected;

(b)      proximity factors inform the foreseeability analysis for claims of psychiatric injury where there is no physical injury;

(c)        the relevant proximity factors are the relational proximity (the closeness of the relationship between the claimant and the victim of the defendant’s conduct), locational proximity (being at the scene of a shocking event and observing it or observing its immediate aftermath), and temporal proximity (the relation between the time of the event and the onset of the psychiatric illness);

(d)      the claim must be for actual psychiatric injury caused by the actionable conduct of the defendant;

(e)      it must be concluded as a matter of law that a reasonable person should foresee that his/her conduct is such that for it could create a risk of direct psychiatric injury to a person of normal fortitude and thereby give rise to a duty of care to avoid such a result;

(f)         a claimant must prove not just psychological disturbance or upset as a result of the defendant’s negligence but also that his/her psychological disturbance rises to the level of a recognizable psychiatric illness. Mere grief or sorrow caused by a person’s death is not sufficient to support any compensation. The law does not recognize upset, discord, anxiety, agitation or other mental states that fall short of a recognizable psychiatric illness.

 

[216]      It is my conclusion from considering all the evidence of the medical experts and the lay witnesses that the plaintiff did suffer from PTSD in the early period after her husband’s death but this was significantly mingled with her grief and bereavement which is understandable after 38 years of marriage, and was completely overtaken and replaced by that continuing grief and bereavement in the long-term.

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