nervous shock

nervous shock
a phrase used to describe a certain class of claim, usually in negligence, where the plaintiff is not injured in the sense of a physical injury. It is not strictly speaking a medical term nor is it strictly speaking a legal category. Nervous shock arises when a plaintiff has not suffered direct physical injury, for example, being run down. Instead, the plaintiff claims to have been so affected by the incident in question that he suffers from a recognised condition as a result: 'It is not enough . . . for the pursuers [plaintiffs] in each case to show simply that they got a fright and suffered an emotional reaction, if no visible disability or provable illness or injury followed': Simpson v. ICI 1983 SLT 601. The floodgates' fear that there would be an army of lying plaintiffs and crooked lawyers and dubious psychiatrists resulted in a strict approach to recovery, demanding that the plaintiff had to be at or about the scene of the incident that caused the shock. The position has now been reached where nervous shock is recoverable subject to three major factors: (1) the relationship of the parties. Plaintiffs should be able to stand the death of strangers, close friends and even relatives as close as siblings. In the case of parents and spouses of the deceased, the necessary relationship is assumed – in other cases it would be for the plaintiff to establish the intimacy of the relationship;
(2) the means of perception should be unaided senses; things seen on television are unlikely to trigger recovery, still less a written report;
(3) plaintiffs to be successful should be at or near the scene or at least its aftermath. See McLoughlin v . O'Brian [1983] AC 410 and its interpretation in Alcock v. Chief Constable of Yorkshire Police [1991] 3 WLR 1057.
However, where a party is considered by the law, unlike the cases above, to be a primary victim then damages are recoverable without any of these qualifications. So it was held in the House of Lords in Page v . Smith [1996] 1 AC 155 in which the plaintiff 's ME flared up after a minor collision in which he was not physically injured.

Collins dictionary of law. . 2001.

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