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Case study 41 - minor injury

Overview

This case study explores a dispute about whether a psychological injury sustained in the subject motor accident is a minor injury under Schedule 2 section 2(e) of the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 (the Act).

Introduction

The claimant was in a stationary vehicle that was impacted to the front when a car ran a red light at speed. Police and ambulance attended the accident. The claimant was taken to hospital for observation and later discharged with no significant injuries. The claimant report heightened mental arousal at the time of the accident.

Following the accident, the claimant attended their general practitioner and has been conservatively managed since. At the time of assessment, the claimant was not undergoing active psychiatric treatment.

The Assessment

There is a dispute about whether the injury is a minor injury under Schedule 2 section 2(e) of the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 (the Act).

Clinical Examination

The claimant reported “some anxiety” when travelling as a passenger in a vehicle. Specifically, reporting thoughts of “what could have happened”. The claimant reported a heightened startle reflex and responds excessively to stimuli or triggers.

The claimant noted difficulty sleeping following the accident and lost employment as a result of the injuries suffered in the accident. The assessor notes that the two are likely related as the claimant enjoys video games and, due to the loss of employment, would game into the early hours of the morning. The claimant advised that after securing appropriate employment their sleep schedule returned to normal.

The claimant reported stable weight and their appetite as intact. The claimant confirmed being involved with a number of organisations and social groups which provide frequent social interaction.

The claimant reported a return to driving independently and drives their motorcycle frequently. The claimant was casually dressed and well groomed.

The clinical examination confirmed no cognitive abnormalities. The claimant has been able to successfully secure employment and a stable intimate relationship since the accident.

Review of Documentation

Documentation from the claimant’s treating psychologist provides a diagnosis of residual stress from the accident. This information is countered by the claimant’s insurance organisation indicating that this is not a DSM-V diagnosis.

Diagnosis

The daily functioning of the claimant has remained unchanged or possibly increased since the accident. The claimant appears not to have a psychiatric disorder. The diagnosis of the treating psychologist indicates residual stress, which accurately describes the claimant’s symptoms.

Minor Injury

Section 1.6(3) of the Act:

A minor psychological or psychiatric injury is a psychological or psychiatric injury that is not a recognised psychiatric illness.

Part 1 clause 4 (2) of the Motor Vehicle Injuries Regulation 2017:

2) Each of the following injuries is included as a minor psychological or psychiatric injury

  • a) acute stress disorder
  • b) adjustment disorder

3) In this clause, acute stress disorder and adjustment disorder have the same meanings as in the document entitled Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Based on the history provided by the claimant, anxiety has arisen from the accident. The symptoms are not sufficient to be categorised as a psychiatric disorder in the DSM-V. This is consistent with the classification of a minor injury.

The following injury is a minor injury:

  • Residual Stress