Mental harm, rescuers and the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW)

Carver, Tracey (2010) Mental harm, rescuers and the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW). Torts in Focus, 85, pp. 1-5.

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At common law, a duty of care may be owed to a claimant who suffers nervous shock or pure mental harm due to witnessing, or hearing about, physical injury caused to another due to a defendant’s negligence. “Pure mental harm” is the ‘impairment of a person’s mental condition’ that is not suffered as a consequence of any other kind of personal injury to them. However, as many accidents have the potential to create a wide circle of mental suffering to bystanders, family members or others not physically injured themselves, it has traditionally been ‘thought impolitic that everybody so affected should be able to recover damages from the tortfeasor.’ ‘To allow such extended recovery would stretch liability too far.’ Nevertheless, whilst adopting a restrictive approach to liability, the common law courts have recognised that a defendant might owe a duty in relation to the pure mental harm suffered by one who foreseeably attends an accident scene to rescue another from a situation created by the defendant’s negligence.

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ID Code: 40893
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: No
Keywords: duty of care, rescuers, civil liability act, mental harm, psychological harm
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 CCH Australia Limited
Copyright Statement: Reproduced with the permission of CCH Australia Limited. Originally published in the Tort in Focus, 2010, 85, 1-5. For more information see
Deposited On: 22 Mar 2011 23:48
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2015 04:48

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