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Secondary Victim’ Claim Fails

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

When a woman who was injured in an accident at work and who seemed to be making a good recovery collapsed and died three weeks later, as a result of a deep-vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism which were related to her accident, her family claimed successfully against her employer.

The woman’s daughter had witnessed her mother’s sudden death, which led to her suffering a psychiatric injury. She brought a claim against the employer as a ‘secondary victim’. She also won damages, a decision which the employer challenged.

At issue in such cases is whether there is ‘proximity’ (a link) between the secondary victim and the person responsible for the injury. Such links are normally only found when the time period between the accident and the ‘second event’ is short.

In this case, the daughter had not witnessed her mother’s accident but her mother’s death. Whilst this had been the result of the accident, it had occurred later.

The Court of Appeal decided that there was insufficient physical or temporal connection between the accident and the ‘second event’ of the woman’s death and upheld the employer’s appeal.

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