Accidents happen, and when they do, they can often cause personal injury meaning that you might want to consider making a claim, which will allow you to gain compensation for all sorts of things – such as damaged clothing, loss of earnings, medical expenses and basic out of pocket expenses. The list, as they say, goes on.
Of course, whilst you might not go to work expecting to suffer a personal injury (after all, you’re only there to do a job!), there were in fact 31.2 million working days lost during 2016/17 due to work-related illnesses and workplace injuries.  In fact, during the same period, there were 137 workers killed at work, 609,000 injuries sustained in the workplace (according to the Labour Force Survey) and a further 70,116 injuries recorded under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.
So, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to make a claim against your employer here’s everything you’ll need to know.
How can I hold my employer liable for my accident?
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 all employers (regardless of industry type) are legally required to protect the ‘health, safety and welfare’ of all their employees and must also hold adequate insurance under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969.
Consequently, if you feel your employer has breached their legal duty, then you might well be able to make a claim for compensation.
What type of accident can I claim for?
Put simply, you can claim for any type of accident which has resulted in your injury. A personal injury can either be:
- A physical injury, disease or illness or
- A psychological injury or illness
When making a claim for a personal injury, you’ll need to substantiate how the injury occurred and also consider whether you were partly to blame for it. If either you (or your employer) considers this to be the case, then the amount of compensation you might receive is likely to be reduced to reflect this. This is sometimes known as ‘contributory negligence’ or a ‘split liability’ claim. However, regardless of how the accident occurred, you should still consider making a claim – even if you might have contributed towards it yourself. Ultimately this will be for your employer, or their insurers, to decide.
How to make a claim
In order to make a personal injury claim against your employer you should take the following steps:
- First and foremost, you should have your injury treated at the soonest opportunity. If your company has a dedicated first-aider, then this is an obvious choice, but if not, you should treat it as best you can and then seek immediate medical assistance either from your own GP or your nearest A&E Department. It perhaps goes without saying that your employer must give you time off work to do this.
- As soon as is practicably possible, you should then notify your employer of the accident and ensure that the details are entered into your employer’s accident book (have this witnessed, if possible). If your employer doesn’t have an accident book, then put a detailed account of the incident to them in writing (also including details of any medical treatment you might have received).
- You should also try and obtain any evidence relating to the accident. For example, you should take photographs of the area where the accident occurred together with photographs of any injuries you sustained (and you should continue to do this as your treatment progresses and/or your injuries start to improve). If, for example, you slipped on a wet floor that wasn’t cleared marked with a warning sign, then take a photograph of the area and mark an ‘x’ to show the exact area where you slipped.
- If anyone witnessed your accident – for example, another colleague – then ask them to write a statement as to what they saw. Ideally, they should do this as soon as possible whilst the incident is still at the forefront of their mind. This could ultimately prove to be invaluable if your employer attempts to defend the claim. Any type of impartial evidence is certainly very useful.
- If you’re self-employed or working on a contractual basis, then you might want to consider reporting the incident to either the Health and Safety Executive or your local authority’s Environmental Health Department – however, you should report it through the official channels first.
- Once you’ve taken the decision to make a claim against your employer, then you should put this in writing to them and invite their response. You should do this as soon as possible after the accident although you do have up to three years within which to bring a legal claim. That said, there are obvious disadvantages if you wait this long. For example, any witness recollections might not be as clear, your injuries may long since have healed, and all evidence types will be a lot less fresh in everyone’s mind.
- If you fail to receive a suitable response from your employer, then you should seek independent legal advice without delay.
Seeking legal advice
If you’ve suffered a personal injury, then there are two main ways of making a claim for compensation: either through a claims management company or through a personal injury solicitor. Generally speaking, the latter option is usually the best, and there are several reasons for this.
Firstly, most claims management companies – whilst holding themselves out as being experts in their field – most likely won’t be legally qualified. This means that they won’t be able to represent you should your matter proceed to Court. You’ll also find that their end fees can be quite steep although these naturally vary from firm to firm.
Secondly, most personal injury solicitors will be able to accept your case on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. This means that, if your case isn’t successful, then you won’t have to pay any of their fees upfront. This also means that the solicitor most likely won’t accept your case if they feel it has no merit since any failure on their part to claim compensation for you means that they won’t get paid.
What you might expect from your case
Once you’ve instructed a solicitor, then he or she will send your employer a formal letter of claim, setting out exactly what you’d like to claim from them – and why.
In addition to the personal injury itself, you’ll also be able to claim any other associated losses such as any loss of earnings, the replacement cost of damaged clothing, prescription charges, travel expenses and so on.
What’s more, if your injuries are particularly serious then you might be advised to get a medical opinion on what your likely costs will be going forward – for example, any type of treatment you might need (such as physiotherapy) and any further financial loss you might sustain as a result of it (such as time off work). This can even include things such as lost chances of promotion at work, so be sure to discuss your personal circumstances as fully as you can when you first consult your solicitor – then let them take care of the rest for you.
Whilst many employees are often quite reluctant to bring a claim against their employer there really isn’t any need to be concerned about the process. In fact, any good personal injury solicitor will certainly give you any assurance you might need in the claims process as a whole.
Remember, if you’ve suffered any type of loss as a direct result of an accident at work – no matter how small – then you’re legally entitled to be compensated for it.
If you’re going through any period of recovery then the last thing you need is additional stress, so once you’ve collated all the information your solicitor might need you can simply kick back and relax, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got someone in your corner who knows exactly what they’re doing and can best to bring your claim to a successful and stress-free conclusion.
 Health and Safety Executive: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/