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2.3.1 Psychiatric Illness - Introduction

Welcome to the third lesson of the second topic in this module guide – Psychiatric Illness. Where psychiatric illness does not follow from physical injury, it may not always be recoverable in negligence. The type of injury that is actionable here has developed through common law control mechanisms. It may form the basis of either a problem or an essay question, and so an understanding of this area of the law is crucial.

At the end of this section, you should be comfortable understanding how tort treats psychiatric illness through its definition of actionable psychological injury. You will be able to define how the duty of care relates to both primary and secondary victims in relation to psychiatric illness, and will also be able to comprehend how tort treats the requisite foreseeability of such harm.

This section begins by outlining why the law of tort restricts claims for psychiatric illness, before going on to the first general rule in the law; that psychiatric injuries must be medically recognised. After going through some of the sufficient types of condition, the section moves on to the second general principle; that psychiatric injuries must be caused by a sudden event. The discussion subsequently addresses how the duty of care for such injuries relates to both primary and secondary victims, and then concludes with a discussion of other relevant legal principles, such as foreseeability, damage to property and injurious news.

Goals for this section:

  • To be able to define how and why the law of tort restricts claims for psychiatric injury.
  • To understand how the duty of care relates to both primary and secondary victims of psychiatric injury.

Objectives for this section:

  • To be able to define what type of psychiatric injury is actionable, and why.
  • To understand how psychiatric injury must be caused by an event.
  • To be able to distinguish between the duty of care owed to primary and secondary victims
  • To understand how foreseeability relates to psychiatric injury and the duty of care.
  • To be able to define the ‘egg-shell skull’ rule.

Start the Lecture

We have three lengths of lecture to suit varying study needs. Select one of the options below to get started (if you have already chosen a study level you will see the option highlighted in violet):

Summary Notes Standard Lecture Detailed Lecture

Problem Questions

Each lecture is also accompanied by hands on examples of problem questions for the subject. You can jump directly to the questions below:

Hands on Examples


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