While no-one expects to be injured at work, accidents can and do happen. Many workplace accidents are often avoidable, resulting from some negligence or breach of statutory duty on the part of the employer for which an employee can claim compensation.
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
The following guide to compensation claims for accidents and injuries at work looks at when you can claim for accidents at work, the types of accidents and injuries for which compensation can be sought, how much compensation you could get and how to claim.
Can you claim compensation for an 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.”
If you sustain an injury at work and the accident is as a result of some wrongdoing on the part of your employer, you may be able to claim compensation. This is because your employer is under a duty of care to provide you with a safe working environment, where they can be held legally responsible for any injury that you have suffered as a result of a failure in that duty and, as such, for their negligence in causing the injury sustained.
Equally, all employers are under a statutory duty, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees, or anyone else affected by the business, including zero-hour contract workers, subcontractors and agency workers.
In practice, this means that employers have a responsibility to assess the risk of health and safety hazards in the workplace, and take steps to remove or reduce those risks, including:
- providing you and other staff with a safe system of work
- providing suitable and sufficient personal protective equipment
- ensuring that you are adequately trained in health and safety matters
- ensuring that plant and machinery is safe to use and regularly maintained
- ensuring that all materials are handled, stored and used safely
- ensuring that all floors and walkways are clean, and free from spillages or trip hazards
- providing suitable warnings of any health and safety hazards in the workplace.
As such, if your employer has failed to conduct regular risk assessments to identify any hazards at work to which you might be exposed, or any risk assessment undertaken is wholly inadequate, they may be found liable for your accident. They will also be liable if they have failed to put in place measures to eliminate or, at least, minimise those hazards.
Equally, if a work colleague is responsible for causing your accident, including where management has failed to follow the requisite health and safety rules, your employer may be found vicariously liable for the negligent acts or omissions of these individuals.
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, their dependents may make a claim for compensation.
What are the types of injury at work claims you can make?
If you have sustained an injury at work and believe your employer is responsible, regardless of the type of accident or nature of the injury, you could be entitled to claim compensation. Some of the most common injuries and causes of workplace accidents are as follows:
- Slips, trips or falls in the workplace: these types of accidents are often caused by poor workplace maintenance and preventable spillages in almost any working environment, typically resulting in bruising, strain, sprain, bone fracture and break injuries
- Lifting and manual handling incidents: these types of accidents are often caused by inadequate training or a failure to provide adequate lifting aids, such as in a care home environment, typically resulting in soft tissue injuries and spinal strains
- Being struck by a falling object: these types of accidents are often caused by unsafe working practices or inadequate training in warehouse environments, where stock or materials are stored at height, typically resulting in head injuries, cuts and lacerations
- Falling from a height: these types of accidents are often caused by poorly enforced safety procedures or a lack of personal protective equipment around ladder, roof and scaffolding work, typically resulting in head injuries, internal injuries, bone fractures and breaks
- Contact with moving machinery: these types of accidents are often caused by inadequate training or a lack of safety warnings in factory environments, typically resulting in a wide range of injuries, from bruising, lacerations and cuts to the loss of fingers or limbs.
Other risks to health and safety at work could include inhalation of toxic fumes causing respiratory damage, exposure to harmful chemicals or biological materials causing burn injuries, exposure to loud or persistent noise causing industrial deafness, and the overuse of keyboards or pneumatic equipment causing repetitive strain injuries.
It is also worth noting that an employer is not only under a statutory duty to ensure your physical health and safety at work, but also your mental wellbeing. As such, if you have suffered employee burnout as a result of work-related stress, you may also have a claim for compensation. Work-related stress is now widely recognised as a serious health and safety issue, where employers must treat this condition like any other workplace hazard.
How much is the compensation for injury at work claims?
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
When it comes to the amount of compensation you can claim for accidents at work, this is less about the type of the accident, and more about the nature and severity of the injuries sustained because of the alleged wrongdoing. As such, the level of compensation for injury at work claims can vary from case to case, ranging from a few hundred pounds to six figure sums. Generally speaking, the more serious the injury, the greater the compensation award.
For example, if someone suffered from a catastrophic brain injury as a result of an accident at work, or an injury involving paralysis for which their employer was to blame, the claimant could potentially be looking at compensation running into at least several hundred thousand pounds. In contrast, if the claimant sustained just minor cuts and bruises from which they make a complete recovery within a few days or a few short weeks, any compensation would be unlikely to exceed more than say £500 to £1,000.
Still, regardless of the nature and severity of your injury, you can potentially recover compensation for all of the consequences that follow as a result, where injury at work claims will almost always comprise two distinct heads of loss: general and special damages.
How much are general damages for injury at work claims?
General damages represent a sum of money to reflect your pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the employer’s wrongdoing, where loss of amenity refers to the impact of the injury on your enjoyment of life. This includes any impact on your family life, your social life and hobbies, together with any reduction in your ability to do work and perform everyday tasks. The sum of general damages will also take into account whether there are likely to be any long-lasting effects from the injury suffered, commonly referred to as your prognosis, including the extent to which any treatment would be successful.
Even though it is recognised that no two cases are ever exactly the same, where each assessment of compensation made has to be based upon the facts of the particular case, it is only fair that there be some consistency between compensation awards. As such, when assessing an award of general damages, the courts will have regard to the ‘Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases’ (JCGs). These guidelines classify injuries by the part of the body affected — such as brain and head injuries, orthopaedic injuries, facial injuries, work-related limb disorders, as well as psychiatric or psychological injuries, to name but a few — as well as the degree of severity. The appropriate award for each category of injury is cited as a range, with some guidance as to what features would justify either a higher or lower award in certain cases.
For example, for injuries resulting from work-related limb disorders in the JCGs (16th edition), the level of award within the very severe bracket for vibration white finger (VWF) is £31,640 to £38,430, whereas the minor bracket for the same category of injury is £2,990 to £8,640. The guidance also sets out a number of factors to be taken into account in any assessment, including the claimant’s age at onset of the VWF; whether one or both hands are affected and, if only, one, if this is the dominant hand; the number of fingers affected; the extent of impaired dexterity and reduced grip; the frequency and duration of painful episodes; as well as the effect on the claimant’s work, domestic and social life.
How much are special damages for injury at work claims?
In contrast to general damages, special damages refers to actual financial losses flowing from your injury as a result of the employer’s alleged wrongdoing.
This can include claims for past and future loss of earnings, where earnings claims can often be high, especially if you have been unable to return to your previous job role or resume your previous working hours. You will also be entitled to the cost of any medical treatment or prescriptions, again both past and future, the cost of travel to any medical appointments, together with the cost of any care, even if provided for free by a friend or relative. If you have sustained serious injury resulting in a long-term or permanent disability, you can also claim for the cost of any special adaptations or mobility aids.
In the most serious cases, no monetary award can come close to compensating you for what has happened, but it can help to facilitate any further recovery and ease some of the financial pressure if you are no longer able to work. Compensation in personal injury cases is essentially aimed at putting the injured person back in the position that they would have been in had the accident not happened or, in those cases where a full recovery is not anticipated, the compensation needed to be able to adjust to a life-changing injury.
How do you claim compensation for accidents at work?
To make a claim for injury at work, you would either:
- take legal action in a civil court by suing your employer, or
- claim under a government compensation scheme, where applicable. 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.
In most cases, to make a claim for personal injury at work, you should hire a solicitor who specialises in employer liability and personal injury cases.
To bring a claim, it will not be enough to simply accuse your employer of breaching their duty of care, where there must be sufficient evidence — typically by way of witness testimony, documentary evidence and even expert evidence— that the employer was in some way negligent or in breach of their statutory duty to ensure your health, safety and welfare at work. Even in those cases where liability is admitted, you will still need evidence from a medical expert, or several experts, depending on the nature of the injuries sustained, to provide a diagnosis and prognosis upon which any compensation claim can be assessed.
However, every workplace injury claim is unique. While some injury at work claims can be settled within a matter of months, others can take several years, not least where any injury sustained is especially serious and the prognosis for recovery is not yet clear. Further, even though the vast majority of claims for accidents at work are settled out of court, a small percentage will go to trial, where these typically take longer once the court is involved.
By seeking expert advice at the earliest opportunity, your solicitor can start the process of negotiating with the employer’s insurers in a bid to resolve the matter as quickly as possible and recover the compensation to which you are entitled. Sustaining an injury at work can have a devastating impact on your life, especially if you are unable to work or continue to suffer ongoing symptoms, where claiming compensation can help to put things right.
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.
howling do you have to make an injury at work claim?
Any claim for an injury at work in most cases has to made 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.
If the claim cannot be settled out of court, and legal proceedings prove necessary, these proceedings must usually be issued within a period of 3 years of the employer’s alleged wrongdoing.
In certain circumstances, a court may make the decision to extend this three year period.
Why take legal advice
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.
Injury at work FAQs
Do I get full pay if injured at work?
If you are injured at work as a result of your employer’s wrongdoing and they accept responsibility or are held liable, you may be able to claim compensation, not only for your injury, but also for any loss of earnings.
What can I claim if injured at work?
If you are injured at work and your employer is responsible for this, you can claim compensation for your injury, together with any loss of earnings and out of pocket expenses, such as prescription costs and travel to medical appointments.
When can you claim for an accident at work?
You can claim for an accident at work where your employer was responsible for causing that accident, either directly or as a result of the negligent acts or omissions of another employee for whom the employer is vicariously liable.
What is the rules for injury at work?
Under the injury at work rules, you must be able to show that your employer was negligent and/or in breach of their statutory duty to ensure your health, safety and welfare ‘and’ that their wrongdoing caused your injury.
Can I claim for a minor injury at work?
You can potentially claim for any sort of injury, even if this is only minor, although you will receive less compensation for a minor injury from which you make a full recovery than for a permanently debilitating injury.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.