There is no direct coherence between medical and legal concepts or between medical and legal ways of thinking (Eastman, 1992). As a result, there are often substantial difficulties in translating the findings of one (medicine) into the decisions of the other (law). In order to minimise interdisciplinary confusion, it is necessary for each to have an understanding of the approach of the other. This paper attempts to elucidate the relationship between law and psychiatry as it is played out specifically in personal injury litigation and in relation to civil legal claims for (legal) ‘nervous shock’. It is not confined solely to claims arising out of the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Eastman, 1995; Napier, 1995), but is applicable to any psychiatric sequelae of events for which legal liability of a defendant can be established. It also offers general comments about the provision of civil psycho-legal assessments, advice and opinion writing (Carson et al, 1993) as a backcloth to its more specific purpose.