The High Court has awarded €50,000 to a woman over psychological injuries suffered after the school bus her teenage daughters were travelling on swerved and overturned into a ditch.
Linda Gavin said her daughters were carried from the scene at Caherconlish following the incident on February 7, 2018. They were among more than 30 students and two adults who were taken to hospital with injuries.
Ms Gavin, of Templemichael, Caherconlish, Co Limerick, claimed she received a call on the morning of the incident from her eldest daughter screaming “help me” and explaining the bus had crashed and she was bleeding.
She said she went to the scene, where she struggled to process what was happening. She saw a man carrying her eldest daughter, who was unconscious and bleeding from her head. Her youngest was being carried by two classmates. Several students known to Ms Gavin were extremely distressed, with some injured, she said.
Ms Gavin sued Curtin Executive Travel Ltd, of Ballyneety, Co Limerick, which operated the school bus service on behalf of Bus Eiréann. Other members of her family have also proceedings arising out of the bus accident.
In an oral ruling, Ms Justice Emily Egan said there was “no doubt” the injuries and suffering of Ms Gavin’s children caused her stress. She found Ms Gavin suffered from nervous shock after the incident.
The judge held that it was likely, from the medical evidence, that Ms Gavin’s clinical post-traumatic stress disorder had resolved to sub-clinical PTSD within 18 months of the accident.
The woman’s continuing diagnosis of depression may not necessarily be shock-induced and is any event mild and resolving, the judge found.
Ms Justice Egan did not accept the defendant’s submission that Ms Gavin did not suffer from a recognisable psychiatric illness.
Following the accident Ms Gavin drove her daughters everywhere as they have remained terrified of travelling, particularly by bus, the judge said. The drive to school is a 70km round trip twice each day. Ms Gavin switched jobs to a place where she could work part-time with flexible hours to allow for the new demands place on her by her family.
Ms Gavin became overprotective of her children and extremely stressed, not wanting to socialise or even get dressed, the judge said.
The mother and her family were involved in another road traffic accident in 2019 when their car was rear-ended. This, the judge said, appears to have had a very significant psychological impact on the children in particular.
Ms Gavin accepted it triggered a significant exacerbation of her symptoms but, nonetheless, she attributed her ongoing trauma to the devastation of the bus crash.
The judge found the root cause of Ms Gavin’s psychological injuries was the 2018 bus crash.
Ms Gavin, represented by Gerald Tynan SC, Padraig McCarthy SC and Donall O’Riordan BL, was awarded general damages of €40,000 for past post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive symptoms caused by the accident. Ms Justice Egan also awarded €10,000 in future and special damages.