This article was updated in December 2019.
Falling victim to an accident at work is often a distressing and confusing time. Besides your injuries you may have many worries associated with your accident, and finding reliable information can be difficult.
In this article, I aim to cut through the confusion and give you a clear guide on what you should do after you’ve suffered an accident at work.
Focus on your injury
This is by far the most important thing that you must do.
In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you should be treated by your workplace’s first-aider. Every workplace is legally obligated to have a first aid kit and a designated first aider. After the accident, if you are able, find the first aider or demand that a work colleague summons the first aider to you. If in doubt, stay still.
Although your injuries may appear minor injury at first, in the worst case, even a minor injury can become a lifelong condition without proper treatment. As such, you should get a full assessment of your injuries by a suitably qualified medical practitioner.
When safe to do so, consider whether you need to go to hospital. Bear in mind that if you have suffered a head injury, then your decision-making may be defective. If in doubt, go to Accident and Emergency by ambulance. Ensure that a work colleague attends hospital with you.
At this stage, forget any potential personal injury compensation claim you may have as a result of the accident. Just concentrate on your health.
Report the accident to your colleagues
If you were working alone at the time of your accident at work, ensure your colleagues are made aware of the incident. This is important if you later decide to make a claim for compensation, or if there is an investigation. It means your employer and their insurers cannot dispute the occurrence of the accident, something which, unfortunately, can often happen.
Bear in mind that an employer can easily put a lot of pressure on their employees. They may be able to persuade more suggestible workers to deny the accident happened. This sounds awful, but the simple fact is, if there is ‘bulletproof evidence’ that your workplace accident occurred, your employer or their insurers will be unable to deny that it happened.
Additionally, irrespective of whether you plan to make a compensation claim, if you alert your co-workers to the accident, then hopefully your colleagues won’t injure themselves just as you have.
I firmly believe that you have a moral obligation to make sure your colleagues do not have the same kind of accident at work that you suffered.
Report the accident to your manager
In a similar way to Point 2, you must tell your manager about the accident, following your organisation’s accident reporting protocols.
If you have suffered a serious accident at work, then your employer is legally obliged to report the accident to the Health and Safety Executive (depending on the precise circumstances and the time that you need off work).
In many organisations, you could be in breach of the staff manual/procedures if you do not report your accident at work appropriately. Therefore, you should report the accident or the near-miss.
The question of who is to blame for the accident is best avoided at this stage. Even if you blame yourself, or if your manager blames you for the accident, this does not mean your employer is not legally at fault for the accident happening. The question of fault is best assessed by qualified solicitors with expertise in apportioning liability for accidents at work.
Record the accident in the accident book
Every organisation should have an accident book. Some employers may be reluctant to record a workplace accident in the accident book, usually because of performance targets to reduce accidents at work.
It is crucial that you do not allow an accident to go unreported in this way. Whilst some workplaces may brag about the number of the days in which there hasn’t been an accident at work, you should not let this put pressure on you to let your accident to go unreported. Reporting an accident is an important duty.
If your employer refuses to record the accident in the accident book, then you should write to your employer so that there is a paper trail and/or email trail of you trying to report the accident. Your employer cannot delete one of your sent emails, particularly if it is from your personal email account.
If your employer still refuses to record the accident in the accident book, then this may be sufficient grounds to resign and claim for constructive dismissal. However, before resigning or taking any other such action, you should seek legal advice from a specialist employment law solicitor. Resigning is a major step.
Take photos and video evidence
This is particularly vital if you want to make a compensation claim because of the injuries you have suffered in the accident at work, or if you feel the need to defend yourself from any bogus accusations a dishonourable employer may make.
After an accident at work you should act like a Crime Scene Investigator! As long as your employer will not penalise you for using your phone, you should take photos and videos of the accident location. Contemporaneous evidence of the accident location and circumstances will be most compelling and it will ensure a dishonest employer will not try to “fix” an accident location, in an attempt to hamper any claim you might make.
Remember: you can never have too much evidence. Work on the basis that: if in doubt, record it. No accident at work solicitor will criticise you for taking multiple photos or videos of the accident location. It’s the smart thing to do.
Ask a reliable colleague for help
Depending on your injuries, you may be off work for some time after your accident at work. It is during this immediate post-accident period that an employer often makes changes to work equipment and systems of work. Whilst this is often to improve safety, sometimes it may be done to ‘cover up’ what happened. With you away from work injured, it’s important that a helpful colleague notes these changes and keeps you updated.
Foolishly, many employers carry out accident investigations when they key witness – you – are off work injured. A trustworthy co-worker – one who is willing to stick up for you – can ensure that the true facts of the incident are recorded, and help to prevent your employer dishonourably blaming you for your accident at work.
Make a diary entry of all your symptoms
It’s imperative that you keep an up-to-date list of your symptoms, whether this is on paper, on a computer or on your smartphone. This is because doctors and nurses do not always make a full record of all your symptoms.
Time and again, our clients tell us that, at the time of their accident at work, they had multiple injuries, yet the hospital only concentrated on what they regarded as the most serious at that time.
However, in my experience, the passage of time can easily flip injuries on their head. What may seem the most minor injury immediately following the accident can often turn into a long-term, debilitating condition – perhaps the most significant injury in the claim.
And if a doctor or nurse didn’t record this minor injury at the time of the appointment, then a medical expert, writing a report some months or even years later, will find it difficult to attribute the injury to the accident at work.
In addition, personal injury claims can take several years to resolve, particularly when the injuries are complex and long lasting. Memories naturally fade over time, so a helpful diary of symptoms will assist you in explaining the impact of your accident at work the medical expert.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to write a diary, you could record video footage of you discussing your symptoms.
Go to your GP and/or hospital
You may have already been to see your GP or attended hospital about your injuries. You may be making a good recovery. Even so, I would recommend that you attend your GP or hospital as many times as you see fit. Listen to your body.
If, for example, you only sought medical attention once (at the time of the accident), most medical experts will consider that your injuries only lasted a few months. This is because, in their minds, if an injury is causing serious, longstanding problems then the injured person would have sought further medical attention.
If this is incorrect then such an impression can seriously undermine your claim. It is the medical expert who essentially determines the extent of the injuries based upon their medical opinions. It is not you or your personal injury solicitor.
To find out more read our article about medical examinations for the purposes of a supporting a claim.
And what newspapers and the government do not tell you is that, if you are successful with your accident at work claim, then all your medical costs incurred by the NHS will be paid for by your employer’s liability insurance. So successful personal injury claims are good for society.
Consider submitting a grievance
Irrespective of the outcome of any accident investigation, if you have suffered an injury at work because of, say, defective equipment, or because you have had to manually lift too heavy a weight, or because of a slippery work surface, then you have the right to complain to your employer about it.
If your submitted grievance is written properly, your employer ought not to hold it against you. If they do, you may be able bring a whistleblowing employment claim.
Keep a record of your expenses and losses
The purpose of compensation in an accident at work claim is to put you back in the position you would have been in if the accident hadn’t happened. Each case is different. If, say, you lost pay as a result of the accident, then you should be able to recover all lost pay. Similarly, if you have lost the chance to earn a bonus or a promotion, then all those future losses should be recoverable too. You can use our free forms in our Legal Library here.
In addition, you can claim for the loss of enjoyment of a prearranged holiday; for care and assistance from friends and family; for increased heating bills; and all trips to the hospital etc. The better your solicitor knows you, the more accurate your compensation settlement is going to be.
For more details on the kind of losses you can claim for in a personal injury claim, download our free eBook: The Ultimate Personal Injury Compensation Guide.
As mentioned above, a personal injury claim for an accident at work may last some years. It’s therefore imperative that you record all of your losses as they occur so you don’t forget about them. Either record your losses and expenses on paper, on a computer or into your smartphone. Remember to take photos of all receipts and send all this information to your personal injury solicitor.
Submit a Subject Access Request
If you think that your employer has information which you wish to know – whether out of curiosity or because you think it will assist any future compensation claim – then you can make a request to your employer for all the information that they have about you. This includes all emails in which you are mentioned as well your personnel and occupational health files.
You can find out more about how to submit a Subject Access Request on the Information Commissioner’s Office website. The Information Commissioner regulates compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and GDPR.
However, if you are thinking if submitting a Subject Access Request, you should do so before you make any accident at work claim. This is because once a claim has commenced an employer might argue that they don’t have to fully comply with the request – instead arguing that they have to disclose less information. It is possible for them to do so because the disclosure rules which operate in a personal injury claim are much more restrictive than the wider provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.
Speak to a dedicated accident at work solicitor, not a call centre operative.
Just because someone works at a solicitors practice, it doesn’t mean that they are a solicitor. If you are unsure whether someone is a solicitor, then you can search for them on The Law Society’s ‘Find a Solicitor’ database.
Given that most accident at work compensation claims are run using ‘No Win, No Fee’ Agreements, why use a paralegal and not a qualified solicitor? It’s your case: so use a solicitor that you trust. Don’t always use a paralegal selected for you, perhaps by an insurance company. Instead, take control of your own claim and read around the subject, just as you have done with this article. Switch solicitors if you are not getting the service that you deserve. We specialise in taking over personal injury claims when the other lawyers aren’t doing such a good job.
If you have been injured in an accident at work, Truth Legal’s team of specialist personal injury solicitors can help you.
Contact us for a free, consultation with no pressure or obligation on you to proceed further.
If you have already started your accident at work claim with a paralegal in a call centre, or another law firm that are not providing you with the right standard of service, you can easily switch your claim to us.