Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Compensation Award of €87,000 for Woman Involved in Car Crash

A compensation award of €87,000 has been approved for a woman who developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after she witnessed the partly decapitated body of a motorist involved in a bus crash.

Lisa Sheehan developed moderately severe PTSD and had to leave her hairdressing job two years after the accident occurred as she felt unable to continue in the position. Mr Justice David Keane awarded her €87,238 compensation in relation to the incident. The 36-year-old married mother of two from Banteer in north Cork, took the legal action against Bus Éireann and FBD insurance which provided cover for the deceased motorist.

She told the judge that experiences nightmares and flashbacks, her condition placed great strain on her relationships and she continues to have counselling and medication. She alleged that this suffering was caused due to the negligent operation or control of both the bus and the car. Bus Éireann denied negligence while FBD admitted the accident was caused by the negligence of the deceased car driver. However, both defendants claimed that Ms Sheehan’s psychiatric injuries did not give rise to any cause of action recognised by the law and they did not owe her a duty of care.

When the accident occurred on January 28, 2017, Ms Sheehan was driving home from work in Cork city following work. When she was approaching Mallow her car struck some debris and she came to a stop. It was at this time that she discovered the damaged bus and the severely damaged car which had hit it close by. When she went over to the the car she discovered “a badly disfigured and partly decapitated body”.

She called the emergency services and began looking in searching the surrounding area for others who might have been involved in the accident but she found no one. She searched the other areas close by and found the bus driver whose face was covered in blood.

In relation to the legal arguments that the defendants were making, the judge said the law on primary/secondary victims is far from settled in this jurisdiction. He added that, while in his view nothing turned on that division in this case, he was satisfied Ms Sheehan was a primary victim as her car had been struck by debris from the crash.