Can I make a claim as an independent witness?
We specialise in helping victims of injury claim the compensation they deserve. If you were an independent witness to an accident or crime that mentally affected you, you may be able to make a claim.
Can you claim compensation for witnessing a violent crime or accident?
If you’ve ever witnessed a violent crime or accident, then chances are you may feel lucky to have walked away physically unscathed. However, in many cases, even witnesses to crime and accidents can be left with debilitating psychological trauma, especially if they witnessed another individual’s death.
Depending on the crime or accident witnessed, an individual may suddenly find it difficult to feel safe doing something as ordinary as leaving their home to go to work, or they may be unable to get inside a car or location related to the event.
Claiming compensation for the psychological damage witnesses suffer isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. With the right help and support from witness claim experts, like those we work with at The Compensation Experts, we’ll do our best to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
What is a witness?
Before discussing how you could receive compensation for witnessing a crime or accident, let’s first answer the question ‘what does witness mean?’
In simple terms, a witness is any individual who heard or saw a crime or accident happen, who can then provide an accurate account of their experience. This may take place in a courtroom or at any point after the incident has occurred. An independent witness is a witness who specifically has no connection to anyone involved in the crime or accident they experienced. An example of this would be a bystander who happened to be present at the time of a car accident and saw the collision occur, making them a car accident witness.
Independent witness statements in particular can be hugely important in determining the cause of accidents as they’re normally more objective and unbiased in their retelling. While witnesses who had some involvement in the accident, for example, a passenger in a car where the driver sustained injuries, are still important, however, because they have had the trauma of involvement, their perspective will likely have a clear bias.
What does being a witness involve?
Often if you’re an independent witness, you’ll be asked to come forward and make what’s known as a witness statement. A witness statement is simply an as factual as possible verbal or written account of what the witness saw, including the lead-up and aftermath of the event.
In any claims case, a client’s solicitor will contact witnesses and ask for their version of the facts. They will draft this into a written statement for the witness to read and sign before they submit it with other evidence to support their potential claim, if they are the claimant, or to show there may be shared liability if they are the defendant. There are rare occasions when witnesses may have to give evidence in court, however, the vast majority of compensation claims settle before they reach this stage.
What is a witness claim?
A witness claim is a claim you make when you have suffered psychological trauma as a result of witnessing a serious crime or accident. But in order to claim compensation from the effects of being a witness, you must be able to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that you have suffered psychological harm due to what you witnessed. This mental trauma could include, but is not limited to:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- An inability to sleep or nightmares
- Fear and phobias, like agoraphobia
- Hypervigilance and symptoms of OCD
Due to the nature of psychological trauma, building a successful case for witness compensation can often take longer than for a client with an obvious physical injury claim. We recommend you speak to your GP for appropriate care and referral if you believe you are suffering psychological damage. Keep a diary recording how you feel and the impact the trauma has on your daily life and then seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
If you’ve spoken to a solicitor and they believe you can make a successful claim, the process will then vary depending on whether you witnessed a crime or an accident. If you wish to claim witness compensation for a serious accident, such as being a car accident witness, then your solicitor will likely take it through a similar process to other injury claims in a bid to win compensation from the guilty party.
If, on the other hand, you witnessed a crime, your claim will likely be taken to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
The CICA was established by the Ministry of Justice to handle compensation claims from people physically or mentally injured from witnessing a violent crime. Therefore, when you make your claim, the CICA pays compensation. This is because, even if the police catch the perpetrator, said perpetrator is highly unlikely to have access to sufficient funds to pay your compensation. There is also currently no liability insurance that covers criminal acts.
When your claim is taken to the CICA, an assessor will consider whether your mental state resulted from, or was exacerbated by, witnessing the event in question. On top of the seriousness of the crime or accident, the nature of your relationship with the victim will also be considered. For example, seeing your spouse or child be assaulted would be considered more traumatic than seeing a stranger hurt. For this reason, it is often more difficult to win a compensation claim as an independent witness despite the importance of your account in the case of a claim.
If they do agree with your claim, however, then it’s a simple case of being awarded compensation without any need for court proceedings. The minimum payment the CICA consider for mental trauma is £1,000, but this can increase depending on the severity of your psychological injury.
If you’ve been witness to a traumatic crime or accident and think you’re eligible to make a claim, get in touch with our experts today. We’ll listen attentively to what you have to say and then put you in contact with an experienced solicitor. Simply call or fill in our online inquiry form and one of our agents will respond at a time that suits you. Remember that we offer a no-win, no-fee agreement*, meaning you don’t have to pay a penny if your claim is unsuccessful.
*Conditions may apply
Am I eligible?
If you’ve been mentally impacted by witnessing an accident or crime within the last 3 years, then you will be able to make a claim.
Exceptions to this may include you being a child at the time of the accident, in which case, you may then have even a longer period to claim.
How much could I claim?
The amount of compensation you can receive as a witness can vary depending on the type of psychological trauma you’ve received. Every injury is different so your pay-out will depend on the extent of the mental trauma you’ve suffered, loss of earnings, future losses, and more.
Get in touch with our dedicated team of experts and we’ll give you an indication of how much you could potentially claim.
How does the process work?
We understand that, when making a claim, it’s important to know what to expect and when to expect it. That’s why we make the process as transparent & clear as possible.
Your solicitor will gather all the necessary evidence and then notify the negligent party that you wish to begin claim proceedings. With your solicitor negotiating on your behalf, you’ll be kept up to date every step of the way.