What is Nervous Shock?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 12 February 2020
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Nervous shock is defined in English law as psychiatric illness caused by another person, usually intentionally. One example of a source of this condition is a car accident, caused either on purpose or through negligence, resulting in the victim being both physically harmed and mentally disturbed. In some cases, the victim can recover damages from the person who caused the nervous shock, especially when psychiatric care is needed after the incident. Before damages can be recovered, however, it must be proven that the victim has a recognized mental illness, and that it was caused either on purpose or through negligence.

The primary victim of nervous shock is the person who was put in harm's way, whether they were hurt or not. For example, a person who is injured in a car accident caused by someone else's negligence can often recover damages for their car's repairs, medical care for any injuries suffered, and for the mental distress caused by the nervous shock. While the victim is not required to have been physically injured, an injury does typically increase the chances of receiving damages after the incident, as well as the monetary amount.


In some cases, there is a secondary victim who witnessed a tragic event, causing nervous shock. It is typically harder to recover damages for this kind of shock, though, as the witness is not typically physically injured. Additionally, the secondary victim needs to adhere to several requirements in order to get any money for this condition, one of which includes having witnessed an event that could make any person of sound mind develop a mental disorder. He also must have witnessed the event or its consequences with his own eyes, and it must have been unexpected, not gradual. Finally, the secondary victim needs to have been quite close with the person who was injured or killed, perhaps a spouse, child, or parent.

If it is obvious that the event was intentionally caused by someone else, then the defendant typically ends up paying for any psychiatric care that is needed, as well as possible other damages. It is a bit harder to prove nervous shock when it was negligently inflicted, as the victim needs to use the four steps of the tort of negligence. First, it must be shown that the defendant had a duty not to inflict this condition on the victim, and that this person's duties were clearly breached. Also, there must be a clear causal link between the event and the nervous shock, making it a direct consequence rather than a possible coincidence. If these factors can be proved, then the defendant is usually required to pay for the victim's psychiatric care.


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Post 1

It's called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD in the modern world.

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