Accidents at Work: Is it a Claim Against your Employer, or is it a Criminal Injury?
When it comes to making a claim against an employer for personal injury, we can sometimes find that there is a crossover in respect of who was to blame, who was negligent, could the incident giving rise to the claim have been avoided, and ultimately the correct person or body to pursue.
This is because when incidents occur, they can take place in a certain location, by someone not expected to be there and in a place where there are multiple third parties responsible for making sure that people there are kept safe.
This article seeks to clarify one of those common ‘crossovers’. One that can confuse and cause a potential Claimant to set out in completely the wrong direction.
This crossover is for those people who have been injured by someone whilst acting in the course of their employment.
A lot of people work with either violent, vulnerable or dangerous people. They can often find themselves working in situations where tempers become strained, confrontations happen regularly, or where alcohol or drugs can play a part in the course of their day to day employment.
Whether you are a doorman, a nurse, a security guard or a prison officer, it is likely that you will have experienced or witnessed an injury being sustained to you, your colleagues or even those you have a responsibility to keep safe, due to the actions of someone else within that environment.
So Who is to Blame? Who Has Been Negligent?
You work in a prison. You are an officer responsible for inmates with violent criminal records. Given this, you have had extensive training and been given full advice and information on how to deal with such inmates and the risks that are posed. Your employers insist that you navigate the wing with another member of staff to ensure that you are not confronted alone. Whilst carrying out your daily routine inspections of the inmate rooms, a convict enters the room and hits you with a chair. Your colleague quickly restrains the inmate, but you have sustained a bad head injury requiring an urgent hospital visit.
In this scenario, the prison service had followed a suitable protocol. You had also followed their guidance of undertaking the inspections with the support of a colleague. The inmate took it upon themselves to strike you without warning with an everyday object. As the attack could not have been foreseen, a claim could be made against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). The prison service could not be held responsible for the actions of one inmate, whilst all reasonable safeguards had been followed.
You work as a carer in a specialist unit, caring for patients suffering from a combination of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Your job involves lifting patients, cleaning, making beds, and amongst other things, ensuring the safety of the patients. Although you have not worked there long, you have had some training, but that was more to do with understanding your day to day tasks and duties. You had not received any specific training about how to deal with vulnerable patients and what to expect.
Whilst assisting an elderly patient to a community area, the patient unexpectedly lashed out and you were struck in the eye with a sharp metal object. The injuries resulted in multiple hospital attendances. You sustained a fractured eye socket, severe facial bruising, and a laceration which ultimately resulted in some facial scarring. You also continued to suffer from anxiety and depression. Due to the trauma of the incident and the injuries you sustained. You later learned that the patient was known for assaulting staff and other patients in the unit. Other colleagues had suffered minor injuries at the hands of this gentleman who was prone to violent outbursts of aggression.
In this situation, there were a number of steps that could have been taken by the employer to ensure the safety of their employee. For example, the patient was known to be a high risk, yet this was not communicated to the employee, with appropriate training and supervision given to ensure the safety of the injured victim. Where did the patient get their sharp metal object that he used to inflict the injuries?
The CICA scheme states that if compensation can be paid by another party, source or body, then that channel should be pursued in the first instance.
Given that measures could have been put in place by the employers to reduce the risk of the injury being sustained, the employers failed in their duty of care. In this case, a claim against the employer/the employer’s insurers would be the most appropriate course of action.
A Rising Number of Incidents Against People Whilst Working
Recent Ministry of Justice studies reveals that there are 23 attacks on prison staff (that are recorded) in England and Wales every day. Over 10% of these attacks are classed as being “serious”. (Injuries consisting of fractures, burns, extensive bruising or requiring medical attention) The number of incidents of assault in prisons recorded shows a 23% increase since 2016.
As Government bodies suffer from staff shortages and funding issues, and some private companies look to put profits over the welfare of their employees, this trend of increasing incidents at the workplace is likely to continue.
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