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December 22nd 2021

Jane Woodcock

‘Substantial damages’ for roofer left unable to work after fall from ladders on ‘dangerous’ scaffolding

Jane Woodcock

Jane Woodcock

Head of Personal Injury

‘Substantial damages’ for roofer left unable to work after fall from ladders on ‘dangerous’ scaffolding

A roofer who broke both heels when falling from a ladder has been awarded a ‘significant damages settlement’ after being left unable to work and needing crutches to walk.

A roofer who broke both heels when falling from a ladder has been awarded a ‘significant damages settlement’ after being left unable to work and needing crutches to walk.

Nicholas Bales had been working for Hull-based roofing specialists LA Hall on the restoration of St John’s Church when the accident happened in December 2017.

The incident has left him in ‘constant pain’, so much so that he needed surgery to have a specialist device fitted that now sends low levels of electricity directly into his spinal cord to help to relieve pain.

As part of a legal claim led on his behalf by Hudgell Solicitors, it was alleged he had been put at risk by inadequate safety standards on the work site.

In particular, the use of metal shuttering around the site was highlighted as it protruded out over the scaffolding platform and part of it caught on Mr Bales’ leg as he climbed down onto a ladder, causing him to lose his balance.

He fell around 15 feet to the ground level, shattering the heel bones in both of his feet immediately.

Such has been the impact on him, he has not been able to work since and now needs to use crutches.

“It has been a nightmare for me really because I am someone who has always worked, often six or seven days a week,” said the 48-year-old.

“Roofing has been my life. I learned it from my dad and worked with him for years when I first started, so it’s in my blood. I miss it.

“The accident is a bit of a blur. I can remember going through a spring-loaded gate off the platform to get on the ladder and then my foot becoming trapped on the metal shuttering. The next thing I knew I’d lost my balance, but fortunately I managed to grab hold of either side of the ladder. I was unable to do anything other than fall all the way to the bottom.

“Had I not managed to grab the ladder I think I’d have fallen backwards, and probably been even more seriously injured. I just hit the floor and landed on both feet, and my legs crumpled beneath me.”

Unable to bear any weight, an ambulance was called and he was told he had broken both heel bones. Initial indications were that his injuries would not be long term, however, due to the nerve damage caused he continues to suffer from constant pain today, four years on.

“I thought I’d be off work for a few months and then be on the mend, but that didn’t turn out to be the case at all,” he said.

“I was worried at that stage as I’d not had any pay in the time I’d been off, there was no indication that I’d be going back to work and my contracts manager had mentioned that the accident may have been my own fault in conversations.

“I didn’t like where things were heading and that’s why I took legal advice at that stage.”

Legal claim alleged breaches of Work at Height and Health and Safety regulations

Mr Bales was represented by Jane Woodcock, head of personal injury at Hudgell Solicitors, who investigated his case and alleged a number of failings by his employers to meet Work at Height and Management of Health and Safety at work regulations.

She said: “It was our case on behalf of Mr Bales that had this work been properly planned, appropriately supervised and fully risk assessed to ensure work could be carried out in safe manner, this accident, which has a huge impact on his life, would have been prevented.

“There was a clear risk from the metal shuttering around the scaffolding, which had been put in place to prevent members of the public accessing the site. It was dangerous as it hampered workers when using a spring loaded gate on the platform which gave them access to and from the ladders.

“One of Mr Bales work colleagues took pictures of it following his accident and the danger was clear to see.

“This should have been spotted during risk assessments and made safe. Not to do this was a breach of duty of care and left Mr Bales at risk of injury.”

As part of the case legal representatives on behalf of LA Hall, which is based in Lime Street, Hull, claimed Mr Bales had been partly to blame, as he had been working on site for a number of days before the accident happened, and having worked as a roofer for more than 20 years was experienced in the dangers of working at height.

A compromise apportionment of liability settlement was reached between the parties.

“Accepting part of the blame did result in me receiving a lower damages settlement than had we chosen to go to court and won the case outright, but that was all explained to me and, to be honest, I was entirely happy with the level of agreement reached and I was pleased to have some certainty that my claim would be successful,” said Mr Bales.

“Interim payments helped me physically and also my family financially. From the final settlement we have paid off our mortgage, which was a big worry removed given I’m not able to work and my wife only works part-time.

“I’ve also been able to buy a new automatic car, as I have found the pain is worse in my left foot so I can’t use a clutch in a manual car, and I have also spent £10,000 on specialist ankle and foot braces which help to relieve pain.”

Mr Bales said he has been delighted with the support provided by Hudgell Solicitors, helping to remove many worries in life after his accident.

“You wonder what the future holds when something like this happens to you. One day life is normal and the next everything has changed. Jane Woodcock was brilliant.  She couldn’t have been more helpful,” he said.

“I remember very early on that she managed to get £7,500 for us to help given we had little money coming in, and not much savings. That was a huge relief for us as it gave us some breathing space to adapt financially.

“Of course I wish I could turn back the clock and this not have happened at all.

“I used to like to play golf and to go and watch the rugby, but the pain and discomfort is just too much for me. I’m hoping the braces will help now, but financially we have been helped significantly and we are very grateful for that.”

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