By: 5 June 2024
The interplay between mental health and insurance claims

Kate Prestidge, head of safeguarding and sensitive claims, Gallagher Bassett Speciality.

There has been an increased focus in recent years on insurance claims arising from workplace mental health and stress, with an emphasis on improving practices amongst employers to best support employees and reduce such claims.

Statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for 2022/2023 revealed that 875,000 working people suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. What is possibly not discussed to the same extent as work-related mental health, is claims against organisations arising from the mental health of non-workers.

Working at Gallagher Bassett Speciality as lawyers advising clients on sensitive claims, we are seeing an increase in claims arising from the mental health of non-workers, particularly in the context of attempted and completed suicides. Such claims are deeply sad and traumatic for all involved and can be difficult for organisations to navigate due to their emotive and complex nature.


A mental health epidemic

Many would agree that there is a mental health epidemic within society, supported by the World Health Organisation statistics in 2019 which evidenced that 970 million people globally were living with a mental health disorder, with anxiety and depression being the most common conditions. The most recently available evidence from the Office for National Statistics reports there were 5,642 suicides registered in England and Wales in 2022, which amounted to 10.7 deaths per 100,000 people. The suicide rate for higher education students in the year ending 2020 was 3 deaths per 100,000 students, with students who died by suicide being 3 times more likely to have a recent history of mental illness.


Claiming against organisations

There has been an undeniable increase in the number of claims against organisations arising from completed suicides where it is alleged that the organisation breached their duties under the European Convention on Human Rights and/or breached a duty of care owed to the deceased person. We typically see such claims brought against educational establishments on behalf of former students. We have also seen an increase in claims presented against local authorities who have duties to provide adult social care under the Care Act 2018, often involving Mental Health Act Assessments undertaken by approved mental health practitioners who are health professionals who work on behalf of local authorities.


Navigating legal complexities

While claims arising from the completed suicide of a person tend not to lend themselves to significant damages awards, the costs of dealing with such claims can be considerable due to the complex legal landscape. Where claims arise from the failed suicide of a person, damages are usually significant due to the inevitable catastrophic injuries sadly suffered. It is encouraging that organisations are establishing a greater awareness amongst their employees as to the importance of early notification and referral of matters involving mental health that might materialise as a claim at a later stage.

For example, many such organisations receive notification, or a request to be involved, in the inquest of a person who was known to them. Where these organisations notify their insurers and legal advisors of the inquest at an early stage, support with the inquest process for the organisation and its witnesses may be provided, together with a more streamlined and comprehensive approach to any resulting claim. It is likely, given the largely undisputed national health crisis in the UK, that as a society we have a long way to go before we are likely to see the statistics surrounding mental health moving in a more positive trajectory.


Image: Gallagher Bassett/Canva.
Guest Post
This post was created just for Claims Media by a guest contributor.