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Title: Can I claim as a witness, not a victim?

Date: 22 January 2015

QUESTION Last year I was riding in a convoy of vehicles when I witnessed a serious road traffic accident involving my brother, who was riding slightly ahead. A van turned right across his path, causing him to hit the bonnet and fly over the car onto the road.

My brother was motionless with blood coming out of his helmet and so I naturally feared the worst. Luckily the emergency services arrived quickly and rushed my brother to hospital. We followed and I found out some time later that he had survived the accident and was now stable.

My brother is now making a claim of his own however ever since the accident I have suffered from flashbacks, nightmares and am afraid to go out again on my bike. Is there any way I can I make a claim?


ANSWER Although you were not directly involved in the accident, you could potentially make a claim as what is referred to as a ‘secondary’ victim.

The hurdles for secondary victims are greater than for primary victims for policy reasons and in order to be successful you will need to satisfy the following criteria: (1) have witnessed a shocking event or its aftermath first hand; (2) been subject to a sudden (i.e. not gradual) shock; (3) have close ties of love and affection with the person injured; (4) it must be reasonably foreseeable that someone of reasonable fortitude would suffer from shock in the same circumstances; and (5) you must have suffered from a recognised psychological condition.

Each case is fact sensitive but based on what you have said there is a good chance that 1 through 4 have been satisfied (though note that ties of love and affection are assumed for spouses and parents, but not brothers). Likewise the symptoms you have described are indicators of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, though you would need an appropriate expert to make a formal diagnosis.

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