Accidents at work: taking the next steps
Accidents an unfortunate but real part of working life in the UK. The good news is that in November 2011 the Health and Safety Executive reported a downward trend in workplace injuries. However the fact remains that more than 100,000 people have been injured at work in the past year alone.
If you are unlucky enough to suffer an accident at work you have the option of claiming for compensation. It’s important to know your rights and follow the correct legal process to ensure that you guard against short term hardship and long term impact.
Don’t believe everything you hear about compensation culture. For every headline grabbing ‘ridiculous’ incident, there are hundreds of genuine claimants, suffering the genuine injuries, through no fault of their own. Don’t let silly headlines put you off. By law you have a right to be safe in your job. If you have been injured through no fault of your own then you are entitled to make a claim without prejudice.
Understanding your employer’s responsibilities
The Health and Safety at Work Act explains your employer’s duty of care, which extends to taking all reasonable and practical steps to protect you. This covers a myriad of possibilities. Many of us have worked in offices where loose cabling abounds, or staff stand on chairs in the absence of a stepladder. It doesn’t seem important until you fall and break your arm. Your surroundings are your employer’s responsibility – from preventing back injury through adequate office seating to providing protective equipment in hazardous circumstances.
However, under the same legislation you are also expected to be sensible about your own safety. If you fall out of a third story window because you had one too many at the Christmas party, you may find that your claim is not met with much sympathy. Contrary to popular myth, health and safety is all about common sense. You can find details of employers health and safety duties here.
The next steps to follow if you have an accident
If you experience a workplace accident you need to follow some simple steps that will ensure the evidence is documented, as well as protecting your employer and fellow employees from related incidents.
Make sure your employer is aware of the incident and has formally recorded it. Check your contract to understand your sick or accident pay entitlement. For their part your employer may need to report the accident to the Health and Safety Executive, and should also take immediate steps to address the hazard. If your workplace has an employee safety representative talk to them to discuss how you plan to move forward.
Starting a personal injury claim
If you decide to make a personal injury claim, keep in mind that compensation exists to restore you to the position you would have been in if the accident had not happened. It is not a way of generating a free windfall. If you understand this then your expectations will be managed and you will avoid disappointment.
Seek professional advice as soon as possible. If you belong to one, a trade union may offer legal services. If not, you need to choose a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will help you to identify supporting evidence such as Doctor’s reports, official accident records, any previous similar accidents or the need to call an ambulance to the scene. Your lawyer will then support you through the claims process, ensuring that you are fully informed every step of the way.
Personal injury claims: worries and pitfalls
It is not uncommon to feel concerned about claiming compensation. After all, preserving your relationship with your employer is important. It helps to remember that employers are insured against workplace accidents – and, incidentally, are legally required to display their insurance certificate in a visible location. Enlightened employers may even recognise that a reasonable personal injury claim can benefit them by bringing health and safety issues to their attention and enabling them to take steps to safeguard against future incidents.
A growing number of personal injury agencies are embarking on cold calling campaigns. This practice is unscrupulous and inappropriate. If you respond to a cold call whilst you are in the process of claiming the impact can be serious. It may cause confusion, slow the process down, or compromise the validity of your claim altogether. Avoid being tempted down this risky road. If you receive a cold call about your accident just politely but firmly state that you are not interested.
Accidents at work can be physically, mentally and emotionally traumatic. At Universa our lawyers understand that. We are here to support and guide you through your claim process with only one priority in mind – your welfare. For friendly, professional advice in plain English contact us today to receive the advice and support you need.