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  • September 9, 2020

House Fire Causes PTSD

House Fire Causes PTSD

House Fire Causes PTSD 900 577 aelegal

HUNTER [2020] WACIC 10

In this matter, the Chief assessor of Criminal Injuries Compensation awarded the Applicant $9,065 compensation for injuries and losses she suffered arising from a criminal injury. The application was made pursuant to section 12 of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 2003 (the Act).

The case involves a dispute between two families that lived across the road from each other. At 12.30 AM on Sunday, 20 March 2016 a certain PS was seen on the driveway of Kenneth John Buckeridge (Offender). The Offender told PS to leave his property which he duly did but not long thereafter, the Offender found that the lights and windscreen of his motor vehicle had been smashed. He immediately suspected PS and summoned the police (his suspicions being well founded as PS later pleaded guilty to this offence).

The police however left the scene without arresting the Offender who was intoxicated. The Offender thereafter decided on revenge by taking a can of petrol and setting fire to PS’s Holden Commodore. The Offender then went home. The Holden took flame and then exploded. This in turn set fire to a Ford Raider parked next to the Holden, and to a carport belonging to a certain MH and finally to the MH’s house.

The Offender became aware of the enormity of his actions and called for the fire brigades assistance. He also became aware that he had endangered the lives of the occupants of the home and so broke through a window to save them and cut himself while doing so. The two female occupants of the house, one of whom was the Applicant, had managed to escape through the back door.

The owner of the house suffered loss in the sum of approximately $400,000. The Applicant suffered a loss of approximately $4,000 in respect of her items in the house.

The subject of this application was the compensation sought by the Applicant for the psychological damage that she had suffered.

The Assessor recorded that the Applicant said that since the incident she:

  1. had trouble sleeping and was anxious;
  2. did not eat well and felt stressed;.
  3. started using antidepressants and sleeping tablets;
  4. had lost weight due to stress and developed high blood pressure;
  5. had started having disputes in the community; and
  6. doubted whether she would ever be able to get back to a normal life.

 

The Applicant further bolstered her case by providing a medico-legal report from a Counselling Psychologist who recorded her personal history and, importantly, concluded that the Applicant suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by several factors including:

  1. the house being set ablaze;
  2. seeing relatives of the man who set the fire; and
  3. hearing or speaking about the incident

which caused distress resulting in her having convulsions.

The psychologist further concluded that her symptoms were not severe but that she was troubled by an ongoing sense of agitation, some degree of sleep disturbance and an increased tendency to aggression.

He recommended 5 to 10 sessions of psychological counselling to help deal with her various symptoms which had improved over time.

The Assessor found that the Applicant suffered PTSD but that the criminal offence, namely the fire, was only one of the contributing causes to the development of PTSD and that there were other significant non-compensable contributors to its development.

Importantly, the assessor noted that the Applicant had not sought medical nor psychological treatment following the incident. This seemed to suggest to the assessor that the injury was not of a serious nature.

The Applicant was awarded:

  1. $6,500 compensation for the injury;
  2. $1,245 for future psychological counselling; and
  3. $1,320 for the psychologist’s report.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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