Psychiatric Factors – Covid 19 Anxiety Syndrome and Personal Injury Claims*
A view is being expressed that the psychological impact of Covid 19 and the lockdowns could trigger psychological harm in personal injury claimants particularly those dealing with physical or mental consequences of an accident.
The issue of Covid-19 anxiety syndrome is one that research is being undertaken on at the present. Research was undertaken from pervious outbreaks such as SARS and Ebola and they identified a risk of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. When it comes to Covid-19 the issue of PTSD symptoms could well arise in certain groups being:
- Those admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and particularly those admitted to ICU
- Family members of those who died of Covid-19
- Healthcare workers who cared for Covid-19 patients who were seriously ill or died
- Emergency workers
Some recent studies have identified, such as those from South Bank and Kingston Universities that anxiety and depression particularly in younger groups and those most at risk of catching Covid-19 such as those with diabetes, asthma and other chronic conditions is a significant issue. The research would appear to indicate that an ongoing fear of contracting the virus persists regardless of whether the person has been vaccinated or not. One piece of research estimates that this could affect up to 22% of the population.
Covid-19 anxiety syndrome is not a condition currently recognised. However, one of the main risk factors for mental health problems is a pre-existing history of mental illness. The pandemic has created a significant number of people with heightened anxiety, PTSD or in some cases depression. This creates a larger number of psychologically vulnerable people in the general population.
One of the difficulties will be that as we return to a new normal accident will occur. In those cases, claimants in the future may potentially be more vulnerable to adverse psychological consequences as a result of the impact of the pandemic on their long-term mental health.
One of the effects of the pandemic has been the significant delay between initial assessment and treatment.
As we move towards businesses and life returning to what could be termed the new normal it is apparent that Covid-19 will have a lasting impact on the mental health of a significant section of the population. This will lead to greater psychological vulnerability following an accident. There will be longer recovery periods and greater disruption to daily living.
It would be hoped that insurers who are aware of psychologically injured claimants who may be awaiting treatment which is delayed will look at a identifying those claimants who have suffered psychological harm and considering rehabilitation funding for private therapies to reduce the psychological injury element and therefore reduce the ongoing difficulties which those individuals will have.
The history in Ireland has been unfortunately that insurers do not do this and therefore it is probable that psychiatric and psychological injury claims associated with accidents are likely to rise.
*Before acting or refraining from acting on anything in this guide, legal advice should be sought from a solicitor.
*In contentious cases a solicitor may not charge fees or expenses as a proportion or percentage of any award or settlement.