A woman has been awarded more than €87,000 by the High Court for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after she saw the partly decapitated body of a motorist who had just crashed into a bus.
Lisa Sheehan (36), a married mother of two from Banteer in north Cork, sued Bus Éireann and FBD insurance which provided cover for the deceased motorist.
Mr Justice David Keane awarded her €87,238 after finding she developed moderately severe PTSD and had to give up her job as a hairdresser two years later on the basis she felt unable to continue.
She suffered nightmares and flashbacks, her condition placed great strain on her relationships and she continues to have counselling and medication, he said.
Ms Sheehan claimed those injuries were the result of the negligent operation or control of both the bus and the car. Bus Éireann denied negligence while FBD admitted the accident was caused by the negligence of the deceased car driver.
Both defendants argued her psychiatric injuries did not give rise to any cause of action recognised by the law and they did not owe her a duty of care.
Mr Justice Keane said on the night of the accident, January 28, 2017, Ms Sheehan was driving home from work in Cork city on a dark winter evening.
Near Mallow in Cork some debris struck her car causing her to halt. She got out to investigate and saw the damaged bus and the severely damaged car which had hit it a short distance away.
She ran to the car where she glimpsed "a badly disfigured and partly decapitated body" which she initially thought looked like a child but was the adult driver of the car, the judge said.
Although in shock, she called the emergency services and started searching the surrounding area for others who might have been thrown from the car, but there were none.
She later saw the bus driver whose face was covered in blood.
The judge said the law on primary/secondary victims is far from settled in this jurisdiction.
And while in his view nothing turned on that division in this case, he was satisfied Ms Sheehan was a primary victim as her car had been struck by debris from the crash.