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The Unseen Scars: Understanding Psychological Injuries in Personal Injury Cases

When we think of personal injuries, we often focus on the visible wounds, broken bones, and physical pain. However, it’s important to recognise that the impact of an accident can extend far beyond the physical realm. Witnessing a traumatic event or suffering a physical injury can trigger a range of psychological injuries that are just as real and devastating. In this article, we’ll delve into the significance of addressing psychological injuries secondary to traumatic events or physical harm, the importance of seeking medical treatment, and how involving an injury lawyer can make a significant difference in securing rightful compensation.

The Hidden Toll: Psychological Injuries

While external wounds may heal with time, the internal scars left by traumatic events can linger indefinitely. Witnessing a traumatic incident, such as a car crash or workplace accident, can result in severe psychological distress. Similarly, individuals who experience a physical injury may also develop psychological symptoms as a secondary consequence.

Two common psychological disorders that can arise from traumatic events are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Adjustment Disorder.

Understanding PTSD

PTSD is a complex psychological disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms can include vivid flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, emotional numbness, and heightened sensitivity to triggers reminiscent of the traumatic incident. These symptoms can significantly impair an individual’s ability to function in daily life, impacting work, relationships, and overall well-being.

PTSD can be either a primary injury on it’s own or secondary injury to a physical injury.

Adjustment Disorder: The Struggle to Cope

Adjustment Disorder is another psychological response that can emerge after a traumatic event. It involves difficulty adapting to life changes and increased emotional turmoil – usually in relation to suffering a serious physical injury. Individuals with Adjustment Disorder may experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and trouble concentrating. These symptoms can disrupt daily activities and lead to a reduced quality of life.

Either condition can be initially diagnosed by a GP who may issue a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist for counselling and further treatment. 

The Importance of Seeking Medical Treatment

Recognising the signs of psychological distress and seeking timely medical treatment is crucial for both the physical and mental well-being of the individual. Just as seeking medical attention for physical injuries is essential, addressing psychological injuries should not be overlooked. A general practitioner can usually provide an initial diagnosis, offer appropriate treatment options and referrals to psychologists and psychiatrists, and importantly – create a record of the psychological injury which is vital for building a strong and comprehensive legal case.

Involving an Injury Lawyer: A Path to Comprehensive Compensation

When pursuing a personal injury claim, it’s essential to work with an experienced injury lawyer who understands the complexities of psychological injuries. Including psychological injuries in your claim can make a significant difference to the compensation you receive.

Increased Damages for Pain and Suffering

Incorporating psychological injuries into your claim can lead to higher compensation for pain and suffering.

In Queensland, the legislation governing personal injury claims allows for secondary psychological injuries (such as adjustment disorder) to cause an average increase of around 25% in damages awarded for pain and suffering. This increase reflects the lasting impact of emotional distress and mental anguish on an individual’s life.


  • For workplace injuries, see Section 4 of Sched. 8 of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Regulation 2014.
  • For all other injuries, see Section 3 of Sched. 3 of the Civil Liability Regulation 2014.

Comprehensive Compensation for Treatment

By informing your injury lawyer about the psychological symptoms you’re experiencing, you pave the way for receiving compensation not only for related medical treatment received in the past but also for treatment that may be required in the future. This ensures that you have the financial support necessary to access ongoing mental health care and therapy, promoting a smoother path to recovery.

Your lawyer is likely to send you to an expert psychiatrist for an independent medical examination and report. Such a report will form expert opinion evidence to support your injury with detailed treatment recommendations and prognosis. If the necessary treatment requires ongoing counselling or prescription medication over many years, the future costs of this can justifiably be included in your claim for damages.


Personal injuries go beyond the visible scars and physical pain; they can deeply affect an individual’s mental well-being. Whether stemming from witnessing a traumatic event or as a secondary result of a physical injury, psychological injuries deserve the same attention, care, and compensation as their physical counterparts. Seeking timely medical treatment and involving an experienced injury lawyer are crucial steps to ensuring that your psychological injuries are acknowledged and adequately compensated. Remember, your mental health matters, and addressing psychological injuries is a vital part of your journey toward healing and recovery.

If you need help making a compensation claim for personal injuries and wish to make sure all of your injuries are considered, contact Roche Legal for a free, no obligation initial consultation.

This commentary is published by Roche Legal for general information purposes only and should not be relied on as specific advice. The content relates to Queensland law only and is subject to change over time. You should seek legal advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any decision.