Although you might think “it won’t ever happen to me,” workplace accidents and injuries are an all too common occurrence.
Indeed, according to 2013-2014 statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive body, over that year 1.2 million working people suffered from a work-related illness in Great Britain.
Some 28.2 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury.
From lacerations, burns and soft tissue damage to spinal injuries, electrocutions and broken bones, the list of injuries that can be caused by accidents or other issues in the workplace are long.
If you were to suffer from an illness or injury caused through your job, it’s important that you know the next steps to take, and what your rights and responsibilities are when it comes to seeking a personal injury claim.
Read on for the lowdown on what qualifies as a workplace injury and how you can go about seeking compensation if required.
If you suffer an injury, illness or disease that is caused in the workplace and is not your fault, it is generally regarded as a workplace issue. As a result, you may be able to make a personal injury claim for compensation from your employer or your employer’s insurance company.
In order to make a claim, you will need to prove though that the illness or injury that you have was caused as a result of the negligence of the business you work for. When you are at work or engaged in activities that are a part of your job (e.g. driving a delivery truck), your employer has a legal responsibility to protect you from potential health and safety hazards.
These might include falling items, toxic chemicals, hazardous environments, unsafe work facilities and the like. Business owners must carry out a risk assessment of the workplace and all associated tools, and do anything that’s necessary to keep employees and workplace visitors safe and healthy.
For example, first aid kits should be kept on site; workplace machinery and other tools should be well-maintained and replaced when needed; and offices, warehouses, and the like should be kept clean, tidy and free from hazards.
Employers also have a legal duty to pay you sick leave, give you time off if you need it after a workplace incident, and to report certain accidents and issues. Employers should keep a note of all injuries, even minor ones, which happen in the workplace.
This is usually recorded in an “Accident Book.” (Note though that if you get hurt or sick when undertaking your job, it’s also a good idea to keep a record of your own of the incident and the events leading up to it).
In addition, the company you work for has a responsibility to report work-related diseases, dangerous incidents and any accidents to the Health and Safety department of a local authority. This duty is mandatory, enforced by the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (or RIDDOR, as it is known).
The types of issues that need to be reported include anything that stops a staff member from being able to continue their normal work for over three days. This can be things like broken bones, the release of gas or other toxins, dangerous incidents (such as the collapse of scaffolding) and deaths.
If you are injured or take ill from an accident or other type of incident on the job and you believe your employer is at fault, you might want to consider making a compensation claim. Note that this must be done in a timely matter, within three years of the date of the incident.
Although usually you will require a lawyer to represent you in your case, sometimes workers who belong to a trade union can use the legal services of that organisation. If not, it’s best to speak with a specialist personal injury lawyer who understands all the ins and outs of this type of case.
Some law firms, such as Claims Direct, take personal injury cases on under what is known as a “No Win, No Fee” basis. In these instances, the person making the claim does not need to pay legal fees up front, and if the case is lost, none at all.
Once you have selected a lawyer for your case, you will generally have an initial meeting with them to discuss the particulars of your claim and your injury, illness or disease.
Your lawyer will then send a letter to the employer (defendant) detailing your claim and commission an independent medical report. From that point on, the process will vary depending on whether the defendant chooses to accept responsibility and to offer compensation or not.