The link between physical and psychological injuries

Our 2023 survey of nearly 10,000 injury victims revealed that 1 in 5 claimants who suffered a psychological injury also suffered a physical injury. We explain why it's so critical that psychological injuries are properly assessed during the claims process.

The connection between physical and psychological injury

Physical and psychological injuries are deeply intertwined. Physical injuries often have psychological consequences, like trauma, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially if the physical injury significantly impacts an individual’s lifestyle, abilities, or self-perception.

Psychological distress can, in turn, hinder the physical healing process, exacerbating chronic pain conditions and prolonging the recovery period. Individuals can find themselves in a vicious circle where their physical injuries exacerbate their psychological injuries and vice versa.

A recent study found that depression following a serious injury was an “important predictor” of recovery times for physical injuries following an accident.

See:

The impact of psychological factors on recovery from injury (National Institute for Health Research)

What are the statistics?

There is no centrally compiled dataset that demonstrates a link between physical and psychological injuries. In an attempt to ascertain how common this connection is with personal injury claimants, we carried out a survey of nearly 10,000 clients from 2023.

Of the 9,675 respondents:

  • 29% suffered a psychological injury
  • 20.6% suffered a psychological injury and a physical injury.
  • 8.43 solely suffered a psychological injury

In conclusion, over 1 in 5 claimants who suffered a psychological injury also suffered an associated physical injury.

Read more:

2023 UK Personal Injury Claim Statistics

Can I claim compensation for a psychological injury?

Yes. You can claim for any recognised psychological harm, including PTSD, stress, anxiety and depression.

You can claim for PTSD following an accident or other traumatic incident, or for mental health issues that have developed over a period of time, provided that the harm resulted from your employer’s actions or negligence.

How do I prove I have suffered a psychological injury?

At the start of a claim, a solicitor will arrange for a medical assessment to be carried out, to report on the nature and severity of the injury. The assessment should also take into account any psychological injury, and the impact a psychological injury has on a claimant's life and ability to work.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to assessing psychological injury. Every injury claimant’s experience is unique, and the process of assessing the psychological harm a claimant has suffered, and the help and support they may need to recover, must be considered on an individual basis.

How does the personal injury process fail claimants with psychiatric injuries?

Claiming compensation for psychological injuries, whether they are linked to physical injuries or not, presents a unique challenge.

Some personal injury lawyers lack the experience to handle such cases effectively. If you attempt to start a claim without a prior diagnosis of your psychological injury, there's a risk that a less experienced firm might turn you down. Unfortunately, some solicitors often fail to guide claimants toward specialists in psychological injuries or suggest getting a second opinion.

It’s particularly important for claimants who have experienced both physical and psychological injuries to ensure their psychological condition is evaluated as part of the claims process. This is because once a compensation settlement is reached, you cannot reopen the claim to seek additional compensation for psychological damages that worsen over time.

Claiming for psychological harm through the Official Injury Claim portal

The Official Injury Claim (OIC) portal is the government’s online service to help victims claim compensation for less severe injuries.

The OIC process is used for claims where the general damages are less than £5,000, or the total value of the claim is less than £10,000 (including both general and special damages).

Claims for simple injuries with a known recovery time are easier to value than complex injuries or psychological injuries where recovery is ongoing. Injuries such as PTSD are practically very difficult for a layperson to value.

This makes using the OIC portal challenging for claimants with psychiatric injuries. There is a risk that claims are undervalued and under-settled, and that affected claimants can’t access the immediate help and support they need.

Even if you are confident that your injuries are less serious and qualify for the claims portal, we recommend that you speak to a claims advisor on 0800 376 1001 to discuss your options.

Read more:

How to use the Official Injury Claim portal

How is compensation calculated for a psychological injury?

General damages compensation is calculated with reference to the Judicial College Guidelines. These guidelines are used by legal professionals to determine the value of personal injury claims, and set out a range of compensation amounts for different types of injury, including psychological.

These tables can be hard to interpret. To find out how much compensation you might receive for a psychological injury, we recommend using our injury compensation calculator.

Read more:

Injury claim calculator

What support is available following a psychiatric injury?

If you need to speak to someone urgently, Samaritans operate a free 24-hour helpline on 116 123. The charity Mind offers help and support for people who have experienced psychological harm, including depression and anxiety.

You should consider speaking to your GP regarding your health concerns. They will advise you further and put you in contact with local NHS mental health resources.

Get expert advice now

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Chris Salmon, Director

Author:
Chris Salmon, Director