Case Commentary – Mental Injury Does Not Need a Psychiatric Diagnosis to be Compensated

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  • In addition to physical injuries, people that are involved in serious accidents can also experience mental injury. Some of the most common mental injuries that accident victims experience are anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision confirms that these mental injuries should be compensated in the same way as physical injuries.

    Saadati v. Moorhead

    This case arose from the second in a series of five car accidents suffered by the plaintiff over a six year period. He was declared mentally incompetent after the final accident and was unable to testify at trial. The plaintiff suffered no physical injuries in the second accident, and was never admitted to hospital. At trial, the judge found that he experienced a mental injury consisting of a “personality change” as the result of this accident. He had no expert testimony to support his claim of mental illness; all of the evidence was from non-expert witnesses with a connection and interest in the plaintiff, including friends and family members.

    The British Columbia Court of Appeal overturned the trial judge’s decision, on the grounds that the plaintiff had not proven that he suffered from any medically recognized mental injury or illness. The Supreme Court of Canada disagreed, and restored the trial judge’s decision, awarding damages to the plaintiff for his mental injury.

    Recovering damages for mental injury

    Other common law jurisdictions, including England, New Zealand and Australia, all require that a plaintiff be diagnosed with a recognized mental illness that was caused by their accident in order to recover damages. As a result of this decision, Canadian plaintiffs will not be required to adduce expert evidence about their psychological diagnosis to recover damages. The mental injury in question must still be “serious and prolonged” before any damages are recoverable, and the symptoms must go beyond the day-to-day anxieties, annoyances or emotional distress that an ordinary person might suffer in similar circumstances.

    This decision does not obviate the requirement that a claimant show sufficient evidence to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that an accident caused their mental injury. Evidence from an expert psychiatrist or other mental health professional can be very effective and credible proof, but is not required.

    Toronto personal injury lawyers assisting accident victims with mental injury claims

    If you have been involved in an accident, you may find yourself struggling with mental illness that may impact your ability to work, or carry on with your day-to-day activities. These types of injuries are treated the same way as a fracture or other physical injury, and if they were caused by someone’s negligence, you may be able to obtain compensation for your damages. The personal injury lawyers at Jasmine Daya & Co. have helped clients who have suffered mental injury

    We offer free consultations for all new clients. Contact us online, or call our office at 416-967-9100 to make an appointment.