High Court, Queen’s Bench Division: Globe J 20 February 2014
The court had to determine whether there was a causative link in law between the defendant’s admitted negligence and the claimant’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociative seizures.
The claimant boarded a bus on her way home from work. As she went to sit down she dislocated her right knee cap. An ambulance was called at 19.02. However, the ambulance did not arrive until 19.50. The defendant admitted that there was a negligent delay in the ambulance attending. The ambulance should have arrived by 19.33 at the latest. Therefore, there was a delay of 17 minutes.
The claimant experienced pain and suffering as a result of the dislocation and PTSD. She also suffered dissociative seizures.
The defendant’s case was that the dissociative seizures occurred much later than the onset of PTSD, were unconnected to it and were consequent on other life stressors. They argued that the claimant would have been similarly restricted irrespective of the defendant’s negligence.
Medical evidence was considered in detail and it was held that there had been a causative link between the defendant’s negligence and the claimant’s PTSD and dissociative seizures. Taking into consideration how debilitating the effects of the injury could be, the claimant was awarded £60,000 for general damages.
The judge accepted that the dissociative seizures could be categorised as severe and that all aspects of the claimant’s life were badly affected.
While a delay of 17 minutes may not appear to be considerable, in certain respects this case illustrates that delay in receiving timely medical attention can lead to serious consequences for an injured person.