Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Ambulance Workers

In April 2003, findings published in the British Medical Journal showed that emergency service workers are at high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The study questioned 617 personnel who worked for ambulance service, and it found that 22% suffered from some form of PTSD.

This is a troubling figure.  Ambulance personnel are required to attend situations that most of us could not begin to comprehend such as suicides, sudden infant death, and events such as the 7th July 2005 London bombings, which resulted in gruesome and distressing scenes, too graphic to be shown in the media, but sights these brave individuals had to face head on.  It is vitally important that ambulance staff are supported fully in their workplace, to ensure they stay psychologically safe, not only for themselves, but for the wider community who rely on them in times of desperate need.

What is PTSD?

PTSD can be caused by a single one-off event or after being exposed to a series of traumatic circumstances.  In the First World War the condition was named Shell Shock. It was later to become known as PTSD in 1980s.  Its symptoms include:

  • Hyper-arousal (always feeling on edge)
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Experiencing flashbacks
  • Anxiety and depression

When left untreated, and in extreme cases, PTSD has led to the suicide of first response workers. After a series of suicides, the governments of British Columbia and Alberta in Canada introduced legislation which applies a presumption that any emergency worker suffering from PTSD is presumed to have acquired the condition as a direct result of their work.  This has made claiming for compensation and support easier.

Compensation for Ambulance Staff Suffering from PTDS in Britain

Historically, the British courts have been reluctant to award compensation to emergency workers who have suffered from PTSD due to having to attend a horrific event caused by a third party’s negligence.  This, coupled with claimants no longer having access to legal aid to fund personal injury claims, has meant successful cases remained few and far between until recently.

However, with the growing acceptance that PTSD is a serious, life-affecting illness, and the advent of no win no fee arrangements to fund claims, things are starting to change and emergency workers are beginning to achieve the compensation they deserve.

A tragic incident that has led to many developments in this area of law was the Hillsborough Football Stadium disaster in 1989.  Although these particular claims involved police officers present at the scene, the principles of the cases could be applied equally to ambulance workers.

Traditionally, the courts have divided people who claim for psychiatric injury after a traumatic event into three categories:

  1. Those who are personally involved in the event who receive both physical and psychological injuries.  These victims are automatically entitled to claim for both mental and physical damage.
  2. People are put at risk of physical injury and escape it, however, go on to suffer from physiological damage.  They are known as primary victims.
  3. Individuals who are not in any physical danger, however, suffer from physiological injury, such as PTSD, because of the event they have directly witnessed.  These people are referred to as secondary victims.

One category of secondary victims is emergency service workers, who suffer from PTSD due to witnessing traumatic events whilst doing their job.  In the case of Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire which stemmed from the Hillsborough disaster, the House of Lords outlined ‘control mechanisms’ designed to limit the number of secondary claims which could be brought before the courts.  In order to qualify for compensation, it was held a secondary victim must prove the following:

“1. There must be a close tie of love and affection between the plaintiff and the victim.  2. The plaintiff must have been present at the accident or its immediate aftermath.  3. The psychiatric injury must have been caused by direct perception of the accident or its immediate aftermath and not by hearing about it from somebody else.”

The courts have not always been consistent when deciding on compensation claims for secondary victims.  For example, in the case of Chadwick v British Railways Board, decided prior to Alcock, the court did allow a secondary victim who assisted in rescuing people from a train crash to claim compensation.  In reaching his decision that the defendant did owe the claimant a duty of care, Waller J quoted Cardozo J in Wagner v  International  Railway Company 232 NY Rep 176, 180 (1921):

“Danger invites rescue. The cry of distress is the summons to relief. The law does not ignore these reactions of the mind in tracing conduct to its consequences. It recognises them as normal. It places their effect within the range of the natural and probable. The wrong that imperils life is a wrong to the imperilled victim; it is a wrong also to his rescuer.”

However, a majority of the House of Lords declined to follow Chadwick in the case of White v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. The claimants were police officers involved in the rescue at Hillsborough.  The officers claimed that their employers, the South Yorkshire Police, where negligent, and as a consequence they had developed psychiatric injuries after participating in the rescue of the victims of that tragic event.  Their Lordships held that the claim could not succeed because they were not in any physical danger, therefore they could not be seen as primary victims, and they did not satisfy any of the criteria which would have put them in the category of secondary victims. The Law Lords felt it was unfair to award compensation to rescue personnel, when many of the victim’s families were denied any form of compensation.

The tables were turned again in 2001 when a court awarded a police officer suffering from PTSD after Hillsborough £330,000 in compensation.

Unclear Precedents

In recent years, there have been a few successful claims by ambulance officers against their employers for not providing appropriate support for PTSD.  Although the law remains a little unclear, the respect and recognition that PTSD now receives will undoubtedly increase the likelihood of claimants being successful in gaining compensation to allow them to move on with their lives.

If you are an emergency worker and suffer from PTSD, which you believe was caused as a direct result of the trauma you experienced through your employment, then please contact us today.  We offer a no win no fee arrangement and have the necessary experience and expertise to bring forward your case and fight for your compensation.



Ten Entertainers Who Have Died in the Workplace

Do You Think Your Job Is Dangerous?

We all know that some jobs pose more risk than others.  Construction, farming and manufacturing all claim far too many lives every year. When it comes to dangerous professions, you would be forgiven for putting entertainers on the same level as office workers. However, it may surprise you to know that many entertainers have been killed in the workplace. Most of us have heard the sad tale of Brandon Lee who lost his life on the film-set of The Crow, but here are ten less well-known examples of entertainers who have suffered a fatal accident at work.

1.   Molière 1632-1673

One of the foremost comedy masters in world literature, the French playwright and actor’s most famous performance was his last.  He suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis and whilst performing in Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid), the last play he ever wrote, he collapsed on-stage after a fit of coughing and died a few hours later.

2.  Madame deLinsky died 1820

One of the oldest and most famous magic tricks is the ‘Bullet Catch’, however, this illusion is not for the faint-hearted and many a magician has died in front of their audience whilst performing it.  In 1820, a magician’s assistant Madame DeLinsky perished when the gun being used for the trick was loaded with a live bullet instead of a blank.

3.  John Marshall Alexander, Jr. 1929 –1954

On Christmas Day in 1954, the American rhythm and blues singer was playing with a .22 calibre revolver during a performance break in Houston, Texas.  Exactly what happened has always been disputed, but the young singer accidentally shot himself in the head and died.

4.  Les Harvey 1944 – 1972

A member of the Scottish band The Stone Crows, Harvey was electrocuted and died instantly during a sound check after touching an un-earthed microphone at the Top Rank Ballroom in Swansea.

5. Paul Mantz 1903-1965

Mantz, an experienced stunt pilot, was killed on the set of The Flight of the Phoenix when the plane he was flying during a stunt scene crashed into a hill.

6.  Karl Wallenda 1905-1978

The veteran high-wire walker plunged to his death after strong winds and a badly secured cable caused him to fall from the 10th story of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The moment was captured by a film crew and broadcast around the world.

7.  Vic Morrow 1929-1982

In one of the movie world’s most gruesome accidents, Morrow was decapitated during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie when a helicopter crashed on top of him and two child actors, killing all three instantly.

8.  Jon-Erik Hexum 1957-1984

The young American Actor and model died on the set of the TV show Cover Up after fooling around on set taking a blank-loaded gun and firing at point-blank range into his temple.  The impact was enough to shatter a piece of his skull and cause a massive haemorrhage.  He was pronounced brain-dead in hospital six days later.

9.  Eric Morecambe 1926-1984

The much loved comedian was performing at the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury when he collapsed from a heart attack just after leaving the stage following six curtain calls.  His last words were jokingly “Thank goodness that’s over”.

10.  Owen Hart 1965 – 1999

The Canadian wrestler was killed when a harness, which was supposed to lower him into the ring for a pay-for-view match, malfunctioned causing him to fall 78 feet into the ring.  Although he sat up briefly after the fall, he collapsed and died shortly afterwards from internal bleeding.

If you have been injured at work, or have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident, you may be entitled to compensation.  Contact us today by filling out this form or call us on 0333 400 4445.

Some Like It Hot Protecting Yourself Against Malignant Melanoma

Ahh summer.  BBQs, holidays, long balmy evenings and relaxing days catching up on the latest summer blockbusters by the seaside.  Along with the glorious weather comes a chance to bare a little more and, let’s face it, most of us would rather show off golden brown skin as opposed to lily-white flesh.

Unfortunately, a glowing tan, via sunbathing or a sunbed, can come at a terrible price.  Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cause of cancer in the UK and it was reported this week that even applying factor 50 sunscreen will not prevent this disease developing[1].

So what is malignant melanoma and what causes it?  How can you prevent it?  Is it possible to claim compensation if I have developed the disease?

Malignant Melanoma Facts

Malignant melanoma is cancer of the pigment cells of the skin[2].  Although most know to keep an eye on moles and seek medical advice if they change shape or colour, it is less well known that melanoma can appear on perfectly ordinary looking skin[3].

In the UK, there are approximately 13,000 people diagnosed with malignant melanoma each year.  If the disease is diagnosed early and it has not spread to any other part of the body, it is highly likely that simply removing the cancer will cure the disease completely[4]. Almost 90% of people diagnosed with malignant melanoma live at least ten years after diagnosis.

What Causes Malignant Melanoma?

Although researchers have discovered the risk factors related to developing malignant melanoma, they do not fully know why some moles become cancerous and others don’t[5]. We do know that ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the skin’s DNA, which can then go on to cause cancer.  Our biggest exposure to UV rays is from the sun. Using tanning beds can also increase your exposure.

Apart from chronic or intense exposure to UV rays, other risk factors which can lead to malignant melanoma developing include:

  • A family history of the disease
  • Having fair skin with blue eyes and blond or reddish hair colour
  • If you have a larger than average number of moles on your body (50+)[6]
  • Prolonged use of sunbeds[7]

Preventing Skin Cancer

As in most cases, prevention is better than the cure.  The best ways to prevent developing malignant melanoma are:

  • Use sun sense. Stay out of the sun between 10am and 3pm. Wear loose fitted clothing that cover up exposed areas, wear a hat and sunglasses and use sunscreen
  • Never allow yourself or your child to get sunburnt
  • Avoid using sunbeds[8]
  • Have your moles checked regularly by a health professional and be on the lookout for any changes in a mole’s colour, shape or size


Because it is so important to diagnose melanoma early on order to heighten the chances of a complete recovery, you may be able to claim compensation if your health professional’s negligence caused a delay in diagnosis and this caused you additional harm (for example, you have to undergo more invasive treatment to remove the cancer from other parts of your body).

To talk to us about seeking compensation for a delay or misdiagnosis of malignant melanoma, then please contact us by filling in this form.  Our friendly, experienced lawyers will listen to your situation and advise you on the next steps to take.











How to Claim For Criminal Injury

Anyone who has been the victim of a violent crime will know that the physical and psychological injuries sustained can last a lifetime. It is therefore often essential that the victim receives some sort of compensation to cover loss of income and ongoing treatment costs.

So how do you claim for compensation for a criminal injury?  What does a person need to prove to ensure they meet the criteria for reparations?

This blog will answer these questions and give you detailed guidance about how the process works.

Who Can I Bring A Claim For Criminal Injury Against?

You can bring a claim for compensation for a personal injury sustained during a criminal attack against the following:

The individual who attacked you

You can bring a claim against the individual who caused your injury, however, it may be unlikely that you will receive any payment from them and you risk exposing yourself to even more stress and upset by having to engage with the individual who caused you harm.

Your employer

If the incident for which you are seeking compensation happened at work, you may be able to bring a claim for compensation against your employer if you can show that he or she exposed you unnecessarily to the risk of a personal injury. For example, if you were working in a shop alone at night and were injured in a robbery, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer if they did not provide adequate security for a sole-charge employee at night.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, (CICA

CICA is a government funded scheme which compensates blameless victims of violent crime in Great Britain.  For most individuals who have suffered a criminal injury, this is the best option.

How Can I Lodge A Claim With CICA?

CICA compensates both the victims of violent crime and the close family of a person who has died as a result of a violent criminal act. To qualify for a payment, you must report the incident to the police as soon as reasonably possible. Normally you must apply for compensation within two years of the incident which caused your injury or your loved one’s death occurring[1].

Providing the necessary documents and relevant evidence to support a claim for compensation rests with the claimant.  You may find it beneficial to engage a professional legal advisor to ensure you file your application correctly if your case is complex or involves a significant injury. However, legal representation is not needed in order to file a claim and is not funded under the scheme.

You may be required to show evidence proving:

  • You meet the residency requirements needed to claim
  • You received an injury that can be compensated under the scheme (e.g. medical reports)
  • Loss of income, either now or in the future, caused directly by the criminal act

Blameless Victim

It is important to note that to receive full compensation under the scheme; you must show you were completely blameless.  The authority will consider your behaviour before, during and after the incident to see if you played any part in contributing to the situation in which you received your injury.  The authority will also take into account any evidence of drugs or alcohol consumed by the victim if it caused him or her to provoke the assault and they may refuse or reduce payments if you have a criminal record[2].

Have you been a victim of criminal injury?  What was your experience?  We welcome comments so please add yours below.

If you have been a victim of criminal injury and would like to know more about claiming compensation, please call us on 0333 400 4445 to discuss your situation.







Food poisoning – could you make a claim?

Christmas is traditionally a time for enjoying food and drink whilst celebrating with friends and family. But, what should have been a happy occasion at the Railway Hotel in Hornchurch, Essex, turned sour when 30 diners fell ill after their Christmas Day meal last December. Tragically, one lady has since passed away. And tests carried out by the Health Protection Agency have revealed that food poisoning bacteria may have been the cause.

Food poisoning is a very common illness, with Hospital Episodes Statistics reporting around 5.5 million cases a year. Most instances occur in the home and are caused by eating produce that’s undercooked, has been stored incorrectly or has simply gone off. But sometimes, restaurants, hotels, pubs, takeaways, supermarkets and other food outlets are at fault. If this is the case, consumers are entitled to claim compensation.

Why claim compensation for food poisoning?

Some people hesitate to make food poisoning claims, because the damage was ‘accidental’ and wasn’t done on purpose. But, if you’ve paid good money for a meal that has made you unwell – even for just a few days – then you deserve some recompense for that unpleasant experience. And if you’ve had to take time off work or away from your business, or pay for medical treatment, you should be compensated for that, too.

How do I make a claim?

First, you’ll need to produce medical evidence that you’ve suffered from food poisoning. This might be a note from your GP, or hospital records if you were admitted to hospital. Also, you’ll have to prove that you contracted food poisoning as a result of eating or buying food at the company in question. This might involve an official investigation into the company’s hygiene standards and/or its food preparation and cooking practices, as well as finding out whether other people have suffered the same ill effects.

Sound a bit daunting? Let Injury Lawyers 4U help

Injury Lawyers 4U are a national network of personal injury specialists. We’re here to help with all kinds of accident and injury claims. Your food poisoning claim will be dealt with by an expert personal injury solicitor, giving you the best possible chance of success.

Call for honest, professional advice on 0845 345 4444. We’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or complete our simple online form.