If you have been injured in an accident then you’re usually entitled to claim compensation for your physical injuries, but what about if you have witness a traumatic event? Here at Accident Advice Helpline, we often get asked if someone can claim for being a witness. Well, it depends. Many witnesses are not eligible to claim compensation as they have not suffered any physical injuries. However, if you are considered a ‘collateral victim’ and have suffered serious mental trauma, such as PTSD, after witnessing traumatic events, then you may be able to make a claim for personal injury compensation.
What happens when I am called on as a witness in court?
You may be called to court to give evidence, and you’ll usually receive a ‘subpoena’ or witness summons demanding that you attend court on a specific date and time to give testimony. When it is your turn to testify, a court official will call you and show you to the witness box. You’ll then be asked a series of questions by solicitors and the judge, relating to the event that you witnessed. You could be asked to attend court on more than one occasion during the case, which means you will not only incur travel costs but may also suffer loss of earnings if you are employed or self-employed; such things may be a factor in any claim for being a witness.
If you’re employed, you should let your employer know that you are being called to give evidence, as by law they must release you to do so. You’ll be sent a letter which details your allowances that you are entitled to (for example for meals) and a form which you can use for travel expenses. The rules generally state that an employed witness can claim up to a daily maximum of £67 as well as reasonable expenses for travelling. If previously approved by the court, and in rare circumstances, you may be eligible to claim for expenses such as an overnight hotel stay or taxi fares – you’re also entitled to claim compensation for babysitting and childcare services. It’s important to keep all your receipts, as you will need these when it comes to making a claim.
Claiming for PTSD or other psychological trauma
If you have suffered psychological trauma after witnessing a traumatic event, then you have three years in which to claim for being a witness. Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most common disorders to be suffered by witnesses and it can take some time for symptoms to emerge. At first you may be on edge, easily upset and unable to sleep, but symptoms can develop into nightmares, vivid flashbacks and physical sensations such as pain, trembling or nausea, which can dramatically affect your quality of life. Research shows that witnessing traumatic events is quite often psychologically damaging in some way and in the USA it is estimated that around 30% of all those who witness trauma will go on to develop PTSD. You could make a personal injury claim for the cost of any treatment you have required, expenses incurred travelling to medical appointments and compensation for loss of earnings, if your PTSD has required you to take time off work.
Who can’t make a claim for being a witness?
If you’re wondering whether you can make a claim for being a witness then there are a few things you should bear in mind. Payments for witness compensation for attending court are usually only made in cash in the event of an emergency, and there are some classes of witnesses who are not legally allowed to be compensated for expenses, including:
- Prisoners in custody
- Police and prison officers attending court as part of their official duties
- Witnesses who refuse to give testimony
If you’re ultimately unsure where you are able to make a claim for witness compensation or you need more advice, you can get in touch with Accident Advice Helpline.
Looking after yourself after a traumatic event
As well as considering making a personal injury claim as a witness, there are some things you can do to look after yourself after witnessing a traumatic event. Your GP may refer you for treatment if they feel you are suffering from PTSD, but you can practice self-care at home if you are feeling stressed or unwell. Here are a few things to try:
- Spend time with others, even if you don’t feel like it at first
- Talk about what you have witnessed and how you are feeling
- Get plenty of rest and stay in tune with your body’s energy levels
- Try not to make any big life changes or decisions
- Practice nurturing and feel-good activities, like taking a bath or reading a favourite book
- Try not to numb your feelings with drugs and alcohol
These things can all help you to recover after witness something traumatic.
Should I make a claim for being a witness?
Whether you have suffered psychologically after witnessing an accident or you are simply interested in finding out more about a potential claim, you can get advice about making a claim for being a witness from Accident Advice Helpline. Our personal injury advisors are on hand to offer no-obligation advice, which means you can get in touch with us without there being any pressure to proceed with a claim. The easiest way to find out if you have a viable claim is to call us on 0800 689 0500, or 0333 500 0993 from a mobile. Or you can use the 30-second test on our website right now to get an idea of how much compensation you could be entitled to if your claim is successful.
No matter what psychological issues you are experiencing, we may be able to help you make a claim, depending on your circumstances, and we don’t charge any upfront fees for our services. Our lawyers work on a 100% no-win, no-fee* basis, so even if you have taken time off work after suffering psychological trauma, we can help you to make a claim without the need to worry about legal fees. Get in touch with us today with your questions or to see if you are eligible to make a claim.