Andrew Gray speaks about this accident at work claim…
Client story… Mr D’s accident at work claim.
Our client, Mr D, suffered his accident at work on a construction site. He was drilling on a mezzanine floor, whilst attached to a safety harness. The harness had a cord which was secured to the ceiling above him, in case the mezzanine floor gave way. However, Mr D was concerned that the cord was too long and that, if the floor did give way, it would not be short enough to prevent him from hitting the ground floor below. He expressed his concerns to his foreman. His foreman agreed with him, but told Mr D to carry on with the drilling anyway whilst the foreman went to get him a more suitable harness. Mr D carried on drilling as his foreman instructed. Just as he feared, the mezzanine floor suddenly gave way and Mr D fell, landing hard on the ground floor. He sustained multiple injuries and fractured his skull.
Mr D did not initially think of claiming for the injuries he suffered. However, about a year after his accident, he instructed Truth Legal to recover compensation for the injuries and other harm resulting from his accident. His claim against his employer had several grounds:
- His employer had provided inadequate safety equipment (in the safety cord on his harness).
- They had failed to undertake a risk assessment (for the risks Mr D was facing during his work).
- They had breached safety regulations for working at height.
- They were liable for the actions of the foreman (as their employee) for telling Mr D to continue working in an unsafe situation.
Although Mr D’s employers originally denied they were fully liable for the accident, Truth Legal succeeded in securing compensation for him. He received over £200,000 in damages without the need to attend court. Mr D also went on to make a good recovery from his injuries as well.
Furthermore, the Health and Safety Executive considered the employer’s breach of legal duty to be so severe that they imposed a fine upon them, action which is only taken in rare circumstances.
Accidents in the Workplace
Some estimates suggest that, in the average person’s lifetime, over 92,000 hours will be spent at work. That’s the equivalent of about 10.5 years!
With so much time at work or in the workplace, there is plenty of opportunity for accidents to occur. Health and Safety Executive figures indicate that there were 609,000 injuries at work between 2016 and 2017.
The different ways in which an accident at work can occur are numerous as well.
- Slips and trips.
- Falling objects or falls from height.
- Injuries from lifting and/or carrying heavy objects.
- Negligent conduct by co-workers.
- Assaults at work.
- Injuries from dangerous machinery, such as production line equipment or forklift trucks.
- Road traffic accidents at work or whilst working.
- Exposure to harmful conditions or substances.
- Through inadequate personal protective equipment.
- Working in conditions which can cause industrial diseases such as:
- Defective work equipment.
Although accidents can happen in any workplace, some particularly hazardous industries mean that workers are exposed to higher risks than others. Some of the more dangerous industries include:
- Construction – work sites often feature heavy materials, equipment and possible exposure to asbestos.
- Manufacturing and production line work.
- Farming and agriculture.
- Waste and recycling.
- Transportation and storage.
- Military service – avoidable accidents whilst serving may give rise to a claim.
How Do I Claim For an Accident at Work?
Starting a claim after a workplace injury is simple. Speaking to us about your situation is the best way to get your claim underway.
However, there are many things you can do to improve your chances for success and start supporting your claim from the get-go.
Generally, there are 4 parts to starting an accident at work claim on the best possible footing:
- Prioritising your health in all situations. Your wellbeing is more important than money. Although making a claim and looking after your health won’t often clash, if they do, your recovery should always take priority.
- Engaging the right legal representation. The quality of your legal representation, and the trust you place in your solicitors, can have a drastic effect on your claim. It can determine whether your experience is positive or negative. It can be the difference between success and failure. At Truth Legal, we are proud of the service we provide and confident in the abilities of our solicitors. But for more information on choosing your solicitors, read our blog post on how to choose the right solicitor for you.
- Following your employer’s own accident reporting processes. You should ensure your accident is recorded with your employer. Your employer is also legally required to ensure accidents are recorded and reported. In addition, if your employer does not record your accident, it makes it easier for them to deny it ever happened.
- Securing as much evidence as you can about the accident and your injuries. Evidence around the time of the accident and your injury is often the most persuasive. Gathering as much as you can, and as soon as possible, can avoid difficulties later in the claim.
Have a look at our blog post, ‘12 things you must do when you have had an accident at work‘, to explore these initial moves in more detail.
How Long Do I Have to Make an Accident at Work Claim?
The law puts time limits on every kind of personal injury claim.
The basic rule is that you have 3 years from the date of your accident to either:
- Settle your personal injury claim; or
- Begin court proceedings.
This time limit is very important. If you miss it, there is a good chance you will be unable to make your claim.
However, there are exceptions to the general rule. In some situations, the 3-year time limit will not start from the date of your accident. These are where:
- You were injured whilst you were under 18, in which case the 3-year time limit will begin running from your 18 th birthday.
- It is uncertain when your ‘injury’ actually occurred. This is relevant where you have suffered an industrial disease, like Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Trying to pinpoint the day when a condition like this was caused would be near impossible so, in these circumstances, the 3-year time limit will begin on the date when you knew (or ought to have known) you had suffered the harm in question. Often, this will be the date when you were diagnosed with the condition.
Accidents at work in some other situations, such as accidents on boats and in other situations, may have a shorter period to claim, so time is of the essence.
As another exception, courts have the power to allow a claim to proceed, even if the time limit for it has run out. This will only be done in very rare circumstances so you should not rely on it if at all possible.
All of this means, if you have been involved in an accident at work, you should always seek legal advice from specialist personal injury solicitors as soon as possible. This will avoid the risk of time running out in your claim.
But even if you think you may have missed your deadline, it is better to make sure by seeking legal advice. An exception like those described above may apply in your case.
If you would like any advice about time limits, please contact us.
What Happens in an Accident at Work Claim?
People don’t make personal injury claims every day, so it is perfectly natural to be curious about what happens. Here are some basic points to give you grounding in how claims work:
- The main objective of your claim will be to prove that your accident was caused by the negligent conduct of your employer, or through a breach of health and safety regulations. It will then follow that they should compensate you for the injuries and other harm you have suffered because of that accident.
- You are the party making the claim, so it will be down to you and your solicitors to prove your case.
- A lot of the claims process will involve gathering the evidence to show:
- your employer was responsible for the accident; and
- how much harm the accident caused you. In other words, proving the extent of your injuries and losses, and proving that they were due to the accident.
- Just because it is for you to prove these different parts of the claim does not mean that the party you are claiming from will dispute them all. They may accept that they were responsible for your accident, for example, meaning you would then only need to prove the harm you suffered due to the accident.
In practical terms, you will have to attend one or more independent medical examinations to document your injuries (to prove your claim) and confirm what has been caused by the accident. Similarly, you will need to gather together evidence to support your other losses, just as you would expect for any insurance claim.
If the accident itself is being disputed (such as who is at fault for it) more evidence will be required.
In everyday language, negligence often means carelessness or inattention. In legal terms, however, the word has a much more specific meaning. For an employer’s
conduct to be negligent they must:
- Owe you a duty of care
- Breach that duty of care
The breach must then cause you harm in a way which was reasonably foreseeable. Employers owe a duty of care to their employees so establishing this part will very
rarely cause a problem in an accident at work claim. See ‘What are my rights?’ below.
To breach their duty, an employer’s conduct must have fallen short of the required standards. For example, they may have failed to monitor safety standards, neglected to properly train either you or your colleagues in safe working practices, or may have supplied inadequate safety equipment.
Very few cases go to a court hearing – perhaps only 1%. Most cases are settled without any need to involve a court. However, if there are areas of dispute in your case, or you have suffered severe or long-lasting injuries, it may be necessary to start court proceedings. Even then, claims are usually resolved before a court hearing takes place.
For more detail on the claims process, take a look at our blog post: ‘What happens in a personal injury claim?’
How Long Do Accident at Work Claims Take?
No two accident at work cases are the same. The time it takes to completely resolve a claim can depend upon many things, including:
- The time it takes for you to recover
- How many issues are in dispute in your case, such as:
- Who was at fault for the accident
- Whether some or all of your injuries are attributable to the accident
- The amounts you are claiming for your injuries and losses
- Whether your case has to proceed to court for any reason
Just because certain aspects of your claim may reduce the time for it to be resolved, other aspects may operate to lengthen it.
For example, Sue and Don are both involved in accidents in separate workplaces. In Sue’s claim, her employers argue they are not to blame. In Don’s claim, his employers accept fault for the accident. However, Don has suffered more severe injuries than Sue and his recovery time is predicted to be a lot longer. He accepts his solicitor’s advice to wait until he is fully recovered before settling his claim. So, both Sue and Don’s claims could take similar amounts of time, but for very different reasons.
Unfortunately, this means answering the question of – how long a claim will take? – is near impossible at the outset. Any attempt to do so, without considering the individual circumstances of your case, would be meaningless at best.
How Much Compensation Will I Get?
The short answer is: it will depend on the harm you have suffered.
Compensation works on the idea that the more you have lost, the more you should receive in compensation. Accidents in the workplace can cause all kinds of injuries, such as:
Injuries of similar kinds will also vary in severity. So how do injuries get valued for injury compensation? The financial losses are dealt with separately.
Valuation is done by looking at two different aspects of the injury:
- The pain and suffering which the injury has caused you.
- The effect the injury has had on your enjoyment of life.
Solicitors have to look at these two aspects and consider what a judge might award if your claim were to go to a hearing. If they cannot justify their valuations, either to the lawyers on the other side of the claim or to a judge, then the final compensation award is very unlikely to match the valuation.
A valuation starting point, used by solicitors and judges is often the Judicial College Guidelines. To give some indication of current compensation levels, here are the figures in the current guidelines (14th edition) for back injuries.
|Back Injury||Description and Factors Considered||Compensation|
|Severe||Cases at the lower end of this bracket will involve serious damage to the back, such as fractures of vertebrae or discs and ongoing disability such as pain, discomfort, impaired bodily function, and long-term effects upon quality of life.
Cases which also involve factors such as a loss of sensation, scarring, or an increased combination of effects will warrant the mid-point of this bracket.
Towards the upper end of the bracket, cases will involve damage to the spinal cord or nerve roots, causing severe pain, partial paralysis, and impaired bodily function. Only the most severe combinations of these factors will lead to the highest figures.
|Moderate||Cases in this bracket include those where there is an ongoing residual disability but which is not as severe as described in the bracket above. This includes less severe fractures, prolapsed discs, nerve root irritation, reduced mobility, and significant pain and discomfort.
Cases towards the lower end of this bracket may include very severe soft-tissue injuries.
|Minor||This bracket covers cases with mainly soft-tissue injuries where a full recovery is possible or there is a recovery to ‘nuisance level’ symptoms.||Up to £10,970|
NB – in very rare and severe cases, which involve complete paralysis, a different set of brackets may be appropriate. For such cases, injuries may warrant an award of up to £354,260.
The guidelines will help to give a very rough valuation of your injuries. However, any figure from the guidelines should be refined further by considering:
- Compensation awards in previous cases for similar injuries
- The unique circumstances of your injury
“New clients will often ask me how much their claim is worth. I understand why: it’s a perfectly natural thing to want to know. But it is similar to asking ‘How long is a piece of string?’, because without supporting information an answer would be meaningless.
A lot of information goes into a proper personal injury valuation, so watch out for claims calculators, and other gimmicks, which are supposed to value your claim from some options you select.
Only when medical evidence has been gathered on your injuries can a meaningful valuation be placed on them.”
The whole valuation process requires accurate information on the injuries you have suffered. If your injuries are still ongoing, valuing your claim can be difficult. Even if a medical expert has predicted a time when you will recover, there is no guarantee that this will be correct. It is often better, therefore, to wait until you are fully recovered before your injury claim is settled.
What Can I Claim Compensation For?
Besides claiming for your personal injury, you can also claim for losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of your accident or your injuries.
Your injury can affect your life in all sorts of ways. So it is unsurprising that there are many different kinds of loss which can be included in a claim. Some of the more common kinds of loss include:
- Travel expenses
- Medical expenses and treatment costs
- Loss of earnings
- Care and assistance
These are only a few examples from a huge and diverse range. To find out more about the many different kinds of loss for which you can claim compensation, download our free ebook: The Ultimate Personal Injury Compensation Guide. You may be surprised at some of the types of loss an accident can cause, and which can be claimed for. For example:
- Losses due to being unable to do a job you love
- Losses from ruined career prospects or missed future opportunities
- Pension losses
- Losses to your benefits
- Ruined holidays, weddings and other events
It is not necessary to have incurred a loss already to be able to include it in your claim. Losses which are anticipated in future can also be claimed in certain
circumstances. Just as with past losses, any future losses you claim for must be supported with evidence and they must be anticipated because of the accident and/or your injuries. Competent solicitors will help you to gather the information.
For an indication of how these, and other losses, are documented in an accident at work claim, have a look at the sample ‘Schedule of Loss’ in our Legal Library.
Who Pays My Compensation?
In most accident at work claims, your claim will be directed against your employer.
However, this does not mean that your employer will directly pay for your claim – even if you are successful. All employers are obliged to hold ‘Employers’ Liability insurance’. This covers an employer against the costs of personal injury claims which may be made by their employees following an accident or illness at work.
This means that it is likely to be your employer’s insurance company who will actually pay the compensation you secure. Your employer might need to contribute the excess, just as you would in a car accident claim.
Can I Claim ‘No Win No Fee’ Compensation For an Accident at Work?
We understand that funding a claim following an accident at work can be a concern. This is why Truth Legal always tries to conduct claims under a ‘No Win, No Fee’ Agreement.
Under a ‘No Win, No Fee’ Agreement, if we do not succeed in recovering compensation for you, you will not have to pay our fees, except in very rare circumstances.
If we are successful, a ‘No Win, No Fee’ Agreement means that a small percentage of your compensation payment will go towards our fees, although most of our costs will be paid by your employer’s insurance company.
Funding a claim is always explained in full detail before you start your claim with us. However, if you have any questions about funding, please do not hesitate to contact us. It might be that your claim is covered by your Legal Expenses Insurance on your home insurance.
We have also partnered with CrowdJustice, a leading crowdfunding platform specifically designed to help clients get access to funding for their case. Find 0ut more about Crowdfunding for legal cases.
Why Should I Use Truth Legal For My Accident at Work Claim?
Choosing who should represent you in your personal injury claim is perhaps the most important decision to be made at the start of your claim.
You must be satisfied that they have the necessary experience and expertise, but they must also be people you can trust. After all, your legal representative may have all the legal know-how in the world, but if you don’t trust them, how will you be able to rely on their advice? Similarly, you might have absolute trust in an unqualified paralegal, but if they lack the experience and skills to run your case properly, the results could be equally disastrous.
Truth Legal’s friendly team of specialist personal injury solicitors and legal executives have extensive experience of securing compensation for victims of accidents at work. We pride ourselves on providing an ethical, honest service to all of our clients.
We are based in Harrogate with presences in York, Manchester, and London. We would like to sit down with you for a free, no-obligation consultation and to discuss any ways in which we can help you. Alternatively, we can speak with you over the telephone. Contact us now to begin your claim.
Switching an Ongoing Claim to Truth Legal
You are entitled to instruct any solicitors you wish to deal with your personal injury claim. This also includes changing solicitors for an ongoing claim. Switching your solicitors to Truth Legal is a straightforward process.
You may wish to switch solicitors for many reasons. Perhaps your case was assigned to a law firm you didn’t choose? This often happens when a claims management company is involved, or when your insurance company or trade union instructs a ‘panel’ law firm for you. Switching solicitors is a good way to take control of this crucial decision. If claiming compensation is important, why let someone else appoint your legal representatives for you?
You should also consider switching if your current legal representatives are not providing you with the service you deserve, or trust has broken down between you.
Can I Be Fired For Making a Claim Against My Employer?
Your employer has a legal duty to look after your health and welfare at work. If they have failed in their duty then you are within your legal rights to make a claim against them.
Your employer cannot legally fire you for asserting your rights.
Perhaps of less comfort, however, is the idea that it can still happen. It is possible for an employer to act unreasonably and dismiss you for making, or even for thinking about making, a personal injury claim following an accident at work. So, what can you do if this happens?
Being fired for this reason would form a strong basis for an unfair dismissal claim or a whistleblowing claim. When defending an unfair dismissal claim, an employer must justify their actions by showing, among other things, that they have acted reasonably in dismissing you. This will be very difficult for them to do if the dismissal was because you were making an accident at work claim. Someone enforcing their legal rights is not reasonable grounds upon which to fire them.
What If My Employer Makes Things Difficult For Me When I’m Back at Work?
This is another common concern with making an accident at work claim: will claiming against your employer lead to ‘bad blood’ between you? The honest answer is that it is possible – working relations have been soured over less. But if your employer makes your working life a misery, such that you have to resign, there are legal means to putting it right. You may be able to claim for constructive dismissal against your employer or a whistleblowing claim.
My Employer Has Already Fired Me/Forced Me to Resign – What Can I Do?
What Are My Rights?
As a worker or an employee, you are entitled to have your health, safety, and welfare looked after whilst you are at work. Your employer is required by law to ensure these things as far as they reasonably can.
In particular, they should:
- Provide and maintain a safe working environment, including safe systems, procedures, equipment, facilities etc.
- Ensure safety when working with dangerous articles or substances.
- Provide training, instruction, and supervision to reduce health and safety risks.
These obligations are contained in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
Alongside these general duties, employers must follow a variety of more specific health and safety regulations. These give more detail about what is legally expected of employers and how they must keep their workers safe in different situations.
The following table summarises the duties contained in the main health and safety regulations:
|Employer’s duties||Where they come from|
|Conducting risk assessments and managing risks in the workplace||The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999|
|Ensuring the safe use of screens and other display equipment||The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992|
|Ensuring safe lifting, carrying, and manual handling operations for workers||The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992|
|Supplying, monitoring and maintaining suitable protective equipment||The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992|
|Providing, and managing the use of, safe work equipment||The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998|
|Ensuring a safe work place||The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992|
|Implementing and following procedures for reporting injuries and sickness||The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995|
|Adopting working time practices to keep workers healthy and safe||The Working Time Regulations 1998|
There is some overlap between many of these duties. This means accident at work claims are often based upon a number of different regulation breaches.
How Far Does an Employer Have To Go to Ensure Your Safety?
For most of these statutory obligations, an employer must do everything that is ‘reasonably practicable’ to ensure your health and safety. Judging what this means involves a balancing act. On one side will be the risk of an accident happening; on the other will be the costs that an employer would have to put in to averting those risks – with costs including money, time and difficulty.
If there is considered to be a tiny risk of a certain kind of accident happening, and the measures needed to avert it would be extreme, then it is likely a court would consider it not reasonably practicable for an employer to have acted to remove the risk.
This kind of consideration has a bearing on whether your employer is ‘at fault’ for your accident occurring.
Common Law Negligence
All of the above duties are ‘statutory’ in nature, meaning they come from Acts of Parliament and related regulations. But you also have legal rights which derive from ‘the common law’.
The common law is quite a complicated legal subject. Generally, it means law that has come about through judgments which have been given in previous cases. Throughout more than 800 years of common law history, judges have set down, changed, and refined countless legal principles.
The common law is just as legally binding as statute law. There may be no Act of Parliament which encapsulates the principles of negligence, but the law on negligence remains current and enforceable.
Alongside their statutory obligations, employers owe a more general duty of care to their employees under the common law. This is similar to a duty of care which road-users owe to one another, or which a doctor owes to their patient. Negligent action, or inaction, on their part has the potential to cause harm, so a right to claim damages is granted to the party who is owed the duty of care. If any such harm should occur, the wronged party can bring a claim for compensation.
Your statutory rights can vary depending on your employment status. Our blog post, ‘What Are My Rights? Employment Status and the Gig Economy’ has more information on this topic. But your common law rights do not depend on your employment status.
In reality, a claim against your employer will often be based upon the breach of statutory duties as well as common law negligence.
What If The Accident Was All or Partly My Fault?
Accidents do happen and sometimes we have only ourselves to blame.
If your accident at work was entirely your fault then you will be unable to claim compensation from your employer. You should speak to a solicitor before you come
to this conclusion, however. Legal liability is not always as straightforward as looking at the direct cause of an accident.
There are situations where your actions may have directly caused the accident, but those actions were a product of negligence on someone else’s part. For example, if you suffered your injury because you did not use a piece of safety equipment correctly, your employer may be held wholly or partially liable for your injury if you were not adequately trained or supervised in the use of the equipment.
As an employee, it is important to be aware that you also have a legal duty to take reasonable care of yourself and others around you whilst at work. So you can be held liable, or partially liable, if you have been negligent.
However, being partially at fault for an accident does not necessarily prevent you from making a compensation claim against your employer. Often, where you were partly liable for an accident at work, your compensation will be reduced (rather than prevented altogether). How much your compensation is reduced will depend on an assessment of how much you were at fault.
If you are in any doubt about whether you were in any way at fault for your accident at work, seek legal advice before assuming you cannot make a claim.
Fatal Accidents at Work
No amount of compensation can make up for losing a loved one in an accident at work. Nor is it meant to. But a claim can help you with the financial difficulties you may face.
If you are unfortunate to have lost someone to an accident at work, you may be able to bring what’s called a ‘dependency claim’. This is a claim in respect of the financial support which your loved one provided for you.
Alternatively, if your loved one already has a personal injury claim ongoing at the time of their death, this may be continued. In this situation, it would be your loved one’s personal representatives (the people dealing with the estate) who would have the option of continuing the claim. This remains true whether your loved one’s death was connected to the accident in question or not.
Our ebook, ‘The Ultimate Personal Injury Compensation Guide’, has more detail on both of these different kinds of claim. Download it for free and have a look at the chapter on ‘Making or Continuing a Claim when Someone has Died’.
What If I Have Been Injured By a Colleague in My Workplace?
Your workplace accident may have been caused by the conduct of another employee – one of your colleagues.
Employees also have certain legal duties to take reasonable care of themselves and those around them whilst at work. For example, they must use equipment in accordance with any safety procedures they have been taught, report any defects they find in work equipment, and store it properly after use.
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, therefore, it is easily possible for one of your colleagues to be personally liable for your injuries.
However, just because a colleague may have caused your accident at work does not mean you would bring a claim against them directly. This is because employers are also responsible for the conduct of their employees whilst they are at work.
Even if your employer is entirely blameless for your colleague’s conduct, your employer can still be held legally responsible in this way.
In the UK, the law is derived from Acts of Parliament and also from previous cases. What judges have decided in one case will have a bearing on decisions in future cases, especially if a decision has been made in the higher courts such as the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Here are some selected cases which have proven to be influential on courts determining similar issues. The facts, and their significance, have been summarised by law students.