This article was updated in November 2022 with new advice.
If you’ve been injured in an accident at work, it can be a distressing and confusing time. Of course there’s the pain and difficulties caused by your injuries, but these can bring with them additional worries – such as how will my life and income be affected? And what should I do?
I’ve put this article together to help cut through the confusion.
In the 12 points below, I’ve set out clear, positive steps you can take after your workplace injury. These are intended to both help your recovery and put you in the best possible position should you later decide to claim compensation for your accident at work.
1. Focus on your health
This is by far the most important thing that you should do.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, you should have been treated by your workplace’s first-aider. If not, this could represent a failure on your employer’s part as every workplace is legally obligated to have a first aid kit and a designated first aider.
You should then get a full assessment of your workplace injuries – by a suitably qualified medical practitioner – as soon as possible after the accident.
Some kinds of injuries can seem minor at first, but develop later into something more serious. Head injuries, for example, can take hours, or sometimes even weeks, to fully appear. And in the worst cases even a minor injury can become a lifelong condition without proper treatment.
The golden rule is: after an accident, never put your work or anything related to a possible claim before your own health and wellbeing.
2. Report the accident to your manager
You must tell your manager about the accident, following your organisation’s accident reporting procedures.
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).
Additionally, in many organisations, you could be in breach of the staff manual/procedures if you do not report your accident at work appropriately.
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 responsible for the accident happening. The question of fault is best assessed by qualified solicitors with expertise in evaluating liability for accidents at work.
3. Ensure your accident is recorded in the accident book
Every organisation should have an accident book. Some employers may be reluctant to record an accident in the accident book, usually because of performance targets to reduce workplace accidents and injuries.
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 injury, you should not let this put pressure on you to let your accident to go unreported.
Reporting an accident is an important duty, and it might help to avoid similar injuries from happening.
If your employer refuses to record the accident in the accident book, then you should write to, or email, your employer so that there is written confirmation 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.
4. Tell your colleagues about the accident and get their help
If you were working alone at the time of your accident at work, ensure your colleagues are made aware of the incident. In particular, tell the co-workers whom you trust the most about your accident.
Making your colleagues aware of the accident is a good step for two keys reasons:
- It can help to avoid similar workplace injuries from happening to anyone else.
- It can help in any investigations or if you later decide to claim compensation.
The first of these is self-explanatory – it is morally right to warn others about the hazards which led to your workplace injury.
The second will make it much more difficult for your employer or their insurers to dispute that the accident occurred, something which, unfortunately, can often happen.
Also, depending on your injuries, you may be off work for some time after your accident. It is during this immediate post-accident period that an employer may make changes to equipment and systems of work in response to your workplace injury. Whilst this is often to improve safety, sometimes it may be done to ‘cover up’ what happened.
And if your employer chooses this time to carry out an investigation into the accident, your relation of the facts could easily be ‘overlooked’ whilst you are away.
It is important to bear in mind that employers can 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, that ensuring there is ‘bulletproof evidence’ that your workplace accident occurred, is the best way to prevent your employer or their insurers from denying that it happened.
All of this is why having some trusted colleagues on your side can be so helpful. They can ensure that the true facts of the incident are recorded and can keep you updated on any changes your employer may make in your absence.
5. Take photos and video evidence
This follows on from the point above about ‘bulletproof evidence’.
Photos and videos of the accident location, as soon after the accident as (safely) possible, can be compelling evidence. It can support a compensation claim, if you later choose to make one, or could help you 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!
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.
6. Go to your GP and/or hospital as often as you need
You may have already been to see your GP or gone to 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 your workplace injury – based upon their medical opinions. It is not you or your personal injury solicitor.
To find out more about medical examinations carried out to support a personal injury claim, read our article here.
And what newspapers and the government don’t 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.
7. Keep a diary of all your symptoms
It’s hard to overstate how important it is for you to keep an up-to-date record of your symptoms – whether this is on paper, on a computer, or on your smartphone.
Doctors and nurses do not always note down all details of 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 the time.
However, in my experience, the passage of time can easily flip injuries on their head. What may seem the most minor part of your workplace injury immediately after it happened can turn into a long-term, debilitating condition – perhaps the most significant injury.
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 your 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 to the medical expert.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to write a diary, you could record video footage of you discussing your symptoms.
8. Record 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 the free form in our Legal Library to record your expenses.
In addition, you can usually claim for all kinds of other losses, some examples are:
- The loss of enjoyment of a prearranged holiday
- Care and assistance from friends and family (our Legal Library also contains a free form to help you record this)
- Increased heating bills
- Travel expenses – e.g. to medical appointments or treatment sessions
And this list only scratches the surface. For more details on the many other kinds of loss you can include in a personal injury claim, download our free eBook: The Ultimate Personal Injury Compensation Guide.
Recording your losses as they occur means that you don’t forget about any of them. As mentioned above, a personal injury claim for an accident at work may last some years – so it’s best to note down anything you’ve lost or paid out due to your accident or injuries as you go. It doesn’t matter if it’s on paper, a computer, or your smartphone, just record your losses so that you don’t miss them out of your claim.
Being able to prove your losses is also crucial – so keep any evidence you have for them. You can take photos of your receipts and send them to your personal injury solicitor.
9. Consider submitting a grievance
A grievance is a formal complaint about a problem in your place of work.
If you have suffered a workplace injury because of, say, defective equipment, a slippery work surface, or because you had to manually lift too heavy a weight, you have the right to complain to your employer about it. This is the case even if there has already been an accident investigation.
If your submitted grievance is written properly, your employer ought not to hold it against you, and it may help to improve conditions in your place of work.
However, it is important to be aware of your employment rights in case your employer does not respond appropriately to your grievance. If your employer does not properly investigate your grievance, and you resign as a result, this might be grounds for a constructive dismissal claim (though you should seek dedicated employment law advice before resigning).
Also, if your employer treats you unfavourably because of your grievance, you may have grounds for a whistleblowing claim under employment law.
10. Submit a Subject Access Request
Submitting a Subject Access Request allows you to ask for copies of all the information which your employer has about you. This includes all emails in which you are mentioned as well your personnel and occupational health files.
As you can imagine, this can reveal information about your accident at work which may not have been sent to you beforehand. If you wish to know what information your employer has about you – whether out of curiosity or because you think it will assist any future compensation claim – then a Subject Access Request can be very useful.
If you are thinking ofsubmitting 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. The rules on disclosing information during a personal injury claim are much more restrictive than the wider provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 (which covers Subject Access Requests).
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 2018 and GDPR.
11. Remember that you have a time limit to make a claim
If you are thinking of making a claim for your workplace injury, it is crucial to remember that you only have a certain amount of time to do so.
For most accident at work claims, you will need to settle the claim or begin court proceedings within 3 years of your accident. If you do not, you may be prevented from claiming any compensation for it.
That deadline can creep up fast, so my recommendation would be: if you are wondering about a claim at all, seek advice as soon as you can.
12. Speak to a specialist accident at work lawyer, not a call centre operative
You should always make sure any legal advice you get is from the best possible source. That means expert personal injury lawyers with experience of running successful accident at work claims.
Because most accident at work compensation claims are run on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis, the hourly rate your lawyer would usually charge isn’t a factor. So why use a paralegal and not a qualified specialist?
If you do decide to make a claim, make sure that you are using legal representatives that you trust. Often, an insurance company or union will select solicitors for you, but it is your case, and you are entitled to choose a firm of solicitors that you trust.
Instead, take control of your own claim and read around the subject, just as you have done with this article! You can also read about whether Truth Legal might be right for your personal injury claim.
And if you are currently making a claim through a firm you aren’t happy with. Why not switch solicitors so that you get the service that you deserve? Truth Legal has a history of successful personal injury claims taken over from other lawyers who weren’t doing 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.