Why is claiming for a work injury often problematic?
Claiming for a work injury is often problematic due to a number of reasons — not least that you may be apprehensive about making a justifiable work injury claim when it could adversely affect your future employment prospects or damage a long standing relationship with your employer. Even though, when handled correctly, neither of these instances should occur, any anxiety you may experience - when already suffering the consequences of a painful trauma - may deter you from claiming for a work injury.
There can also be other difficulties and obstructions to claiming for a work injury, and these are discussed below. However, as the circumstances surrounding each work injury are not usually identical, and the way in which they affect your quality of life are unique, it is always in your best interests to seek professional legal counsel whenever sustaining an injury at work which you believe is due to your employer´s negligence.
Work Injury in the UK
According to the latest Health and Safety Statistics (2009/10), there were 121, 430 work injuries reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which resulted in an absence from work of over three days. More than 26,000 were regarded as “major” injuries, and the vast majority of these occurred in the “Services” sector (71%) - as opposed to the more traditionally hazardous industries of construction and manufacturing. Although not all of these will have been attributable to employer negligence, the figures point to the fact that work related injury is commonplace.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974 and subsequent amendments) employers have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for you to work, and claiming for a work injury when they fall short in their legal obligations is a way of ensuring that they be held accountable for failing to safeguard the health of their employees. If you are unsure whether your work injury is due to an employer´s lack of care, speak with a solicitor to get impartial and practical advice.
Prior to Claiming for a Work Injury in the UK
Remember, your health always comes first. No amount of compensation will make up for an avoidable loss of your health, and claiming for a work injury should wait until you have first tended to your physical and psychological wellbeing. In the event of a serious injury, your first step should always be to call an ambulance. If it is a less serious injury, make sure you report to the casualty department of the nearest hospital at the first possible opportunity, or make an emergency appointment with your general practitioner when your work injury is caused by an industrial disease. Regardless of the severity of the injury, seeing a doctor is a necessary step and your attendance at a medical centre will be recorded in your medical records. This evidence will later play an instrumental part in supporting your claim.
Claiming for a Work Injury and the Accident Report Book
Your employer should have an “accident report book”. When at all possible, you should seek to have the details of your work injury recorded immediately — or soon after — your accident. Under certain circumstances, and specifically when your injury results in an absence from work of more than three days, your employer has to tell the HSE about your work accident and they may instigate their own investigation. Whatever the outcome, you should keep a copy of the entry in your employer´s accident report book to give to your solicitor, take photographs of the scene of your accident if practical, and speak to work colleagues who may have witnessed the circumstances surrounding your work injury and may be aware of times when a similar injury has happened before.
Problems Associated with Claiming for a Work Injury
Inasmuch as any investigation by the HSE, photographic evidence that you have collected and witness statements by work colleagues may support you when claiming for a work injury, there are still several problems that you may encounter.
One of the biggest is negligence. When claiming for a work injury, it is not enough to say that you were injured at work, or sustained a health issue due to the environment you were working in. Your injury has to be attributable to an employer´s lack of care. This lack of care can manifest in the failure to provide personal protective equipment, offer adequate training or even advising you of the risks associated with the task you were performing. Although, in many cases, negligence may be apparent, there are often circumstances which obstruct a swift resolution when claiming for a work injury.
An example of such an obstacle is if you acquire a work injury which could have conceivably been due to an activity outside of the workplace — i.e. an engineer who frequently uses drilling equipment in the pursuit of a DIY hobby who consequently suffers from Vibration White Finger. Even if you aggravate an existing injury through your employer´s negligence in the workplace, your employer could claim that you contributed to your injury by your own lack of care — this is called “contributory negligence”.
Another reason for a counter claim by your employer is if you fail to seek medical attention immediately after an accident has occurred, or when you know that you are suffering from an industrial disease. This delay in diagnosis - and attributing an injury to your occupation - will not only have serious consequences to your health, but may make claiming for a work injury difficult if your employer claims that you aggravated the injury by your own actions after sustaining it in the workplace.
Claiming for a work injury can also be problematic if you were not “employed” at the time of your injury, or if the employer has since gone out of business (this happens frequently in claims for asbestos related illnesses). Many people who believe that they are “employed” may be on short-term contracts, agency employees or self-employed in which case different regulations may be applied. You will not be disqualified from claiming for a work injury, but your solicitor may have to take a different route to ensure you are adequately compensated.
One further problem associated with claiming for a work injury is your employer´s public liability insurance company. Most employers will be genuinely distressed that their negligence has resulted in your injury; however their insurance company — the people who pay claims for work injury — may take a different view. Some will make it as awkward as possible for you when claiming for a work injury, whereas others will approach you immediately after an accident with an inappropriate offer of early settlement. Making sure that you receive adequate compensation is one of the most important reasons for speaking with a solicitor at an early stage.
Free Advice When Claiming for a Work Injury
You will be offered plenty of free advice by family and friends when claiming for a work injury and although all of it will be well-meaning and thoughtful, not all of it will apply to your personal circumstances and the special damages you may be entitled to receive. Therefore we have established a free work injury claims advice service which you are invited to call if you have sustained a work injury which you believe may be due to the negligence of your employer.
By calling our free work injury claims advice service, you will be able to discuss the particular circumstances surrounding your case with an experienced solicitor in complete confidentiality and with no obligation on you to proceed with a claim.
Claiming for a work injury can often be problematic, but by taking advantage of the helpful and accurate advice on our free work injury claims advice service, you can focus on making a recovery from your injury while we concentrate on ensuring you receive a fair settlement of your work injury claim.