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October 22nd 2021

Accidents at Work

Where there’s blame there’s a claim… how determining fault is the first thing we advise clients on following an accident at work

Sarah Kidd

Sarah Kidd

Associate, Personal Injury

Where there’s blame there’s a claim… how determining fault is the first thing we advise clients on following an accident at work

In recent years, my colleagues and I in the Personal Injury team at Hudgell Solicitors have helped hundreds of clients make an accident at work claim for compensation.

In recent years, my colleagues and I in the Personal Injury team at Hudgell Solicitors have helped hundreds of clients make an accident at work claim for compensation.

On a personal note, I have helped many clients make a claim after being injured at work since covering my first case like this back in January 2008.

When a client comes to us for advice, in general it is about getting into a mindset to think: ‘Has your employer done something to cause your accident to happen or alternatively failed to do something to prevent it?’

Just because you have an accident at work doesn’t mean your employer is liable for your accident. It is all to do with whether or not your employer could have done something that they failed to do or did something that they shouldn’t have done that caused your accident to happen.

Sometimes we get people who ring and say ‘I don’t know what my employer could have done to stop my accident from happening’, ‘well could they have done something?’, ‘well, no, it was just an accident’, then that is unlikely to give rise to a claim.

Accident at work claim example of an employer failing to act to prevent an injury

This theme of ‘fault’ being key to any successful accident at work claim was evident in a recent case in which I secured a four-figure damages sum for a 47-year-old woman.

My client was working as a carer in assisted living for an individual in residential housing. She was going up some stairs when her left leg went through a floorboard at the top of the stairs on the landing, which caused the woman to twist her knee and land on her face.

The floorboard was supposed to have been replaced after the nearby bathroom flooded a few times. She suffered bone bruising and was in discomfort for eight weeks after the accident at work – for which liability was fully admitted.

In this type of circumstance, the fault lies in knowing about problems. If that defect had just arisen and the floorboard had just rotted there was nothing her employer could have done. The fact there had been a leak and it had not been fixed properly meant it was something her employer knew about and failed to do to prevent the workplace accident from happening.

Why employers should be aware of their responsibility under ‘vicarious liability’

Another area of ‘fault’ we see in many of the accident at work claims we see is around ‘vicarious liability’ – where one party, in this case an employer, is held partly or fully responsible for the actions of a third party, their employees.

This was the case in another work injury compensation case I recently settled for a client, securing him £12,000 damages after liability was admitted when he was injured at work in a warehouse.

The man was carrying a heavy box down some stairs from a mezzanine level when he turned a corner and tripped over a pallet which had been left in the walkway by one of his colleagues.

He suffered soft-tissue injuries to his neck, left shoulder, left knee, right forearm and back, as well as experiencing psychological issues after the workplace accident – which saw him need four months off work.

This claim fell under vicarious liability as the employer didn’t do anything themselves, it was the actions of a colleague that caused the accident.

But in cases where colleagues don’t put things away or don’t think to move things, employers will still be liable for that because they are responsible for their employees.

Work injury claim made after unsecured aluminium panel hit man in the head

Another case in which I secured a four-figure accident at work compensation settlement, after liability was admitted, came after a man suffered a head injury in a factory.

My client had been walking through the factory to collect some materials when a colleague knocked a stack of unsecured aluminium that had been leant against a wall.

One of the panels fell, hitting my client on the head, which resulted in a nasty cut just above his left eye that bled profusely and required the wound to be glued and steristrips applied. He has now been left with scarring, as well as ongoing stiffness and pain in the left side of his neck.

These large sheets of metal were not secured and should have been stored properly, not left standing against the wall by his colleagues.

Again, this is another case where, because employers are vicariously responsible for their employees, even if it’s not within their job role or even if the employer has said ‘you have to make sure these things are secured tightly when they are stacked up’,  because an employee didn’t do that, the employer is still responsible.

A business may have a health and safety manager who will wander around and see these things are happening on a daily basis, but instead of cracking down on them it’s accepted practice that you do things this way because it’s easier or you can get jobs done quicker, but I don’t think some employers realise that they are responsible for the negligent actions of their employees.

Training issues raised during accident at work cases

Lack of training is also an issue. We see a fair amount of claims involving people who don’t know how to use a piece of machinery properly or who have not been trained to use it properly.

Other things that tend to be an issue are people not reading documents and just signing them. For example after an accident where we allege no training, the insurers come back to us and say ‘well, here is a training log which is fully signed’;  when you speak to clients about it they say ‘I didn’t read it, I just signed it’, which is a problem.

In the end, it always comes back to that ‘who was at fault’ question when we first speak to clients.

If this is something you are unsure of after suffering an accident at work then our Personal Injury team are on hand to offer free, no obligation advice on whether you might be able to make a claim. Click here to contact us today >>

Blog by Sarah Kidd, Associate Solicitor, Personal Injury

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