Claiming for Injury at Work
According to the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974,
It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.
So, what do you do when you suffer an injury at work or develop a work-related illness and you feel that your employer is at fault? How do you make a claim and should you seek legal advice?
What is an injury at work?
The meaning of the term ‘injury at work’ isn’t as straightforward as it might initially appear to be.
An injury at work could be a physical injury, disease or illness, a psychological injury or illness, or even an injury resulting in death, that is caused or aggravated by work conditions and the work environment.
Examples of an injury at work include, but are not limited to:
- A disease caused by working with hazardous goods without sufficient protection or information
- An injury caused by using faulty equipment
- An injury caused by an unsafe work environment
Who can make a claim for an injury at work?
Your employer bears a responsibility for your health and safety at work, so if you have sustained an injury, developed an illness or been diagnosed with a disease that you believe has been caused by your employer’s negligence, then you are within your rights to make a claim for compensation.
As an adult, 18 years of age or older, you can raise a claim for yourself.
If you are under 18 years of age, then a parent, close friend, or family member who is an adult may be appointed as a litigation friend to act on your behalf.
Where an injury at work has resulted in the death of an individual, any existing dependents may make a claim for compensation.
What proof do you have to provide of your injury?
The success of any claim will be reliant on what evidence you can provide of both your injury and the related work conditions, so gather together as much information as you can.
- Whether you were injured through an accident at work or developed an illness as a consequence of your work conditions, you should report the injury to your employer, ideally their Human Resources Department or Health and Safety Officer. They or you should then record this report in their company accident book. For your own records, keep a note of when you reported the injury, whom you reported it to, and how you reported it, whether by email, telephone call or face to face meeting.
- If there were any witnesses, keep a record of their names and contact details.
- Does your employer use CCTV in your workplace? If so, this could provide evidential footage of the incident.
- Photographs of you, your injuries, the area where the injury happened, or faulty equipment in your workplace, could also help your claim.
- Any medical records, be they from a hospital visit, your GP, or your employer’s first aider are essential when you are putting together a claim. If you can’t acquire the original document, then request a copy.
When can you claim?
Any claim for an injury at work can be raised up to three years after the incident took place.
In the case of a work-related condition, illness or disease, the three years begins at the point that you discovered the illness was related to your work environment.
The sooner you can begin your claim, the fresher any evidence will be, however, this three year period allows for any recovery period required or ongoing medical investigation.
In certain circumstances, a court may make the decision to extend this three year period.
How much compensation are you likely to receive?
Compensation is usually split into two areas, general damages (for the injury itself, its physical or psychological effects, and any loss of future earnings) and special damages (actual financial loss caused by the injury before the case hearing).
The amount of compensation you might receive if your case is successful varies greatly, ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds, and is dependent on many factors:
- The details of the actual injury, e.g. broken arm, fractured skull, sight loss
- The level of negligence on your employer’s part
- Any loss of future earnings or employment benefits
- Damage to clothing or other belongings
- Other expenses such as medical costs or travel to medical appointments
You should also be aware that if you receive state benefits because of an injury at work, these may be deducted from the compensation you are granted.
How do you make a claim?
There are three usual routes to making a claim:
- a claims management company
- taking legal action in a civil court
- a government compensation scheme
A claims management company, or claims assessor, generally offer to take up your claim case on a no-win, no-fee basis, but may not necessarily use a solicitor, in which case they will not be able to take your claim to a civil court.
If you choose to take legal action against your employer, then you will need to hire a solicitor who specialises in injury at work compensation cases. The Law Society holds a list of personal injury accredited lawyers who specialise in this kind of claim.
There are several government compensation schemes relating to certain kinds of injuries or conditions, such as asbestos related illnesses. These government compensation schemes can be examined through the gov.uk website.
How professional legal advice can ease the process of making a claim
There are many reasons why taking specialist legal advice may be the best route to take when making an injury at work compensation claim.
- From the outset, a solicitor will be able to assess your case not just on the basis of approaching your employer with your claim, but also in the knowledge that should the case go to court, they have the training and resources to fulfil that role for you too. Having this added insight means that they can fully assess your injury at work claim.
- Have you considered lost earnings and additional expenses? A solicitor who specialises in injury at work claims will be able to advise you on exactly what extra items you can claim for, in addition to your main claim. These could include lost earnings, lost overtime, lost work related benefits, medical costs, or travelling expenses to medical appointments.
- If worry or fear over retaliation is preventing you from raising a claim against your employer, then having a legal professional on your side can remove that pressure. They will act as your agent in communications with your employer, allowing you to remain at a distance from the process.
- In the unlikely situation where you do face any form of discrimination from your employer in retaliation for your claim, your solicitor is equipped with the knowledge and resources to deal with this on your behalf.
Making a claim when you have been injured at work or developed a work-related illness can seem a daunting process but equipped with the right information and backed by a professional, it really doesn’t have to be.