Our emergency service personnel, paramedics/ambulance drivers, firemen, police officers, are constantly subjected to witnessing terrible scenes which the rest of us would find extremely distressing.

Such exposure can lead to emergency service workers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A study was taken place in 2003 which revealed that emergency workers are at a high risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The findings, which were published in the British Medical Journal, showed that 22% of the 617 people interviewed were suffering with the illness.

However, the British courts have historically been reluctant to award compensation to emergency service personnel who suffer from PTSD after attending an accident scene that was caused by the negligence of a third party. Also, the fact that claimants are no longer able to fund their compensation claims with legal aid has meant that successful PTSD claims have been few and far between.

That is, until recently. The rise of claims being made on a No Win No Fee* basis, coupled with a growing acknowledgement that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very serious and life-altering condition, has led to more and more emergency service workers making claims and being awarded the compensation they are entitled to.

What causes PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can not only be caused by experiencing a single distressing event, but also being exposed to a number of traumatic circumstances over time.

Either of the above could be the case for ambulance and other emergency workers. For example, a worker could develop PTSD after attending a pretty horrific and gruesome scene of a suicide, but they could also acquire the condition after years of attending call outs to fatal accidents.

It is extremely important that people who work in this industry have full support available to them. There have been extreme cases in the past where emergency service workers have taken their life as a result to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Symptoms of PTSD include:

    • Irritability
    • Sleep disturbance/difficulty sleeping
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Flashbacks
    • Hyper-arousal (always feeling on edge) 

There are areas in Canada which have a legislation in place which states that any emergency worker suffering with the disease does so as a direct result of their work. Because of this, claiming for compensation and getting support is a much easier process.

Up until recently, this has not been the case in the UK and successful cases were rare. However, the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster has a big part to play in the changes.

The growing acceptance that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious and life threatening illness is increasing the likelihood of compensation claims being successful.

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