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nervous shocka phrase used to describe a certain class of claim, usually in negligence, where the plaintiff is not injured in the sense of a physical injury. It is not strictly speaking a medical term but now marks out a certain set of perplexing legal cases where a plaintiff has not suffered direct physical injury, for example, being run down. Instead, the plaintiff claims to have been so affected by the incident in question that he suffers from a recognized medical condition as a result. The ‘floodgates’ fear that there would be an army of lying plaintiffs and crooked lawyers and dubious psychiatrists resulted in a strict approach to recovery, demanding that the plaintiff had to be at or about the scene of the incident that caused the shock. The position has now been reached where nervous shock, mental illness or post-traumatic stress disorder may found a claim if the claimant is a primary victim or alternatively is a secondary victim and can pass the control tests developed in the cases. An example of a primary victim is a person whose ME flared up after being in a minor collision in which he was not physically injured. Secondary cases are where the claimant sees another being injured and the controls operate around three categories which are under review by the Law Commissions:
- (1) the relationship of the parties;
- (2) the means of perception should be unaided senses; things seen on television are unlikely to trigger recovery, still less a written report;
- (3) plaintiffs to be successful should be at or near the scene or at least its aftermath.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006