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Damages for Psychiatric Injuries

By Des Butler


Damages for Psychiatric Injuries offers a critique of liability for psychiatric injury in Australia and England. Author Des Butler examines current day understandings of psychiatric medicine, evaluates the legitimacy of past and current approaches to limiting liability, and examines the policy considerations which promote such limits. Butler also analyses the recommendations of the 2002 Ipp Panel’s Review of Negligence in Australia and resulting legislation.

Succinct and readable, the book sets out a preferred approach to dealing with claims for psychiatric injuries, which recognises the scientific advances of recent times and reflects good legal reasoning.


Thus Far and How Much Farther?

A Medical Perspective

Responses to trauma
Relevant factors in the aetiology of trauma

Step by Cautious Step

Early treatment of nervous shock as physical injury
The genesis of limitations
Foreseeability: from flexibility to subterranean mutilation
The Dillon v Legg legacy
Australian manoeuvres: Jaensch to Gifford and beyond
The English disaster: Alcock and beyond

Competing Policy Considerations

Relevant policy considerations
Balancing competing considerations

Bright Lines and Boundary Stones

Concepts of damage
Relevant stressors: the class of plaintiff
Means of perceiving the stressor
Physical proximity
Causal proximity
Pre-existing relationships: circumstantial proximity
Self-inflicted death, injury or peril

Stopping the Thing Where Good Sense Stops It

Inclusion and exclusion
Ipp Report and Australian tort reform legislation
The relevant damage

Table of Cases/ Table of Statutes/ Index


The publication of this book is timely. As with many areas in the medical arena, it is very difficult to understand the terminology. The author has included a chapter explaining in simple terms the medical basis and history of psychiatric conditions and injuries and the use of diagnostic tools …
Throughout the text, the author has provided helpful examples of the concepts and explanations of “tags” often used in this area. This should assist practitioners when seeking to understand medical reports …
The history of the development of liability for psychiatric injury is thoroughly explained. This becomes important … The reader will also be aided by the author expressing his own views on decisions and the impact of [recent] legislative changes. … For Victorian lawyers, a section in Chapter 6 specifically addresses [the amendments to the Wrongs Act]. …
Damages for Psychiatric Injuries gives practitioners a valuable resource [which] can assist in formulating arguments that may influence the courts to develop an appropriate approach to the difficult concepts.

Tim McFarlane, Law Institute (Vic) Journal, Vol 78.10, (October 2004) 66

This is a book which made me feel angry on several occasions and nod in agreement with the author on others! … It raises, considers and ponders much of the present state of the law in Australia and the United Kingdom in relation to the limits on claims for psychiatric injuries.
Do not be mislead into thinking that the only type is PTSD. On the contrary, psychiatric disease can take a myriad of forms and its causation can be something as simple as seeing someone killed or badly injured, to the shock of being told of the death or injury to someone.
Courts, and more recently the legislators have, imposed various limitations on the circumstances in which a person may claim for psychiatric injury and it is in relation to those limits and that legislation, that much of this book gives attention. …
Whereas claims for physical injury are relatively easy to understand, for some reason, our society continues to have great difficulty in cases of psychiatric injury and in identifying an appropriate test for the duty of care and in assessing to whom and in what circumstances therefore, such a duty is to be owed. This book warrants the time and application to read and consider its contents.

BJM, Tasmanian Law Society Newsletter, September 2004


Published April 2004
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862874916
Australian RRP $75.00
International Price $70.00
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