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Guidance To The Law Surrounding Accidents At Work

10:16, 6/8/2021

Home » News & Knowledge » Guidance To The Law Surrounding Accidents At Work

What is the legal position regarding accidents at work?

 

If a company has more than ten employees, then any accidents should be recorded in their accident book. In addition to any internal investigation, if an accident at work involves death, a serious injury or industrial disease, an employer must report the accident to the relevant enforcement authority. These can include the Health and Safety Executive, Local Authorities and the Office for Rail Regulation.

This process is outlined in the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), which confirms the full list of reportable injuries. Following the report, the risks involved in the task involved are reviewed which may escalate to a formal investigation.

Guidance To The Law Surrounding Accidents At Work

 

Health and safety inspectors then have the power to issue an improvement notice requiring remedial action and serve  a prohibition notice which freezes certain activities until the remedial action is taken.

However, if the incident is found to be sufficiently serious, a company can be prosecuted for breaching health and safety regulations. Depending on the type of offence, this can lead to an unlimited fine.  In addition, a company’s  director, manager, secretary or similar officer could also be personally prosecuted under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 if it is found that any offence is committed with the consent or neglect of the said person.

If found guilty, the responsible person could face a fine, imprisonment or disqualification from their duties.  If a senior manager is involved, they may also face up to life imprisonment or an unlimited fine if they are found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter.

Even if a criminal prosecution is unsuccessful, a person is entitled to bring a claim against their employer, which would ordinarily be handled by the company’s insurers or a solicitor appointed to act on their behalf. The standard of proof in civil (compensation) claims is much lower and is based on proving “on the balance of probabilities” (more likely than not) that an accident occurred as claimed.

In criminal trials, the standard is “beyond reasonable doubt”, therefore meaning that a jury has to be satisfied that there is no doubt in their minds that the offence took place and met the prosecution criteria required.

 

What should I do if I have suffered an accident at work?

If you suffer an accident at work, we would always advise a client to obtain as much evidence as possible as this could either be destroyed or become lost at a later date. This could include taking photographs of the area or machinery and by formally reporting this to their employer.  We would always urge a person to complete the accident book where possible and to check its contents for any discrepancies if another employee is completing this on their behalf.

If you have suffered injuries as a result of your accident, we would also advise you to seek medical attention from your GP or hospital as soon as possible, specifically informing them exactly how your accident occurred and ensuring that the date of your accident is recorded correctly. Any discrepancies within evidence can be harmful to a prosecution case or compensation claim so it is essential that everything is correct.

If you do wish to make a claim for compensation, you have three years from the date of your accident to make this, although this is extended to a person’s 21st birthday if they are a child at the time of the incident.

At the end of the three year period, either Court proceedings must be issued or an extension to the limitation period has to be agreed with the Defendant to protect your position, failing which you would have to rely on a judge’s discretion to allow the claim out of time, which would require compelling reasons to explain the delay.

Despite this timeframe, we would always urge a client to bring the claim as quickly as possible to ensure that there is enough time to investigate the case and collect evidence before the limitation period expires.

 

What is the claims process?

First your file handler would speak to you regarding your accident and decide whether it is a case we could handle for you on a “no win – no fee” agreement, which would be explained to you in detail. If the case is accepted, we would then send out this firm’s initial documents for you to review and sign. Once received by us, we will then formally be instructed to act on your behalf regarding your claim.

To begin the process, we would write to your employer to request their insurance details and send a draft Claims Notification Form (the document submitting your claim to the Defendants) to you for you to review.

We would then send this to the Defendant’s insurers once approved by you and the insurers would have 30 business days (or six weeks) to initially respond admitting or denying liability for your accident. However, this can be extended to a period of three months for complex cases.

If the Defendants admit liability for your accident then we would arrange to have you examined by an independent medical expert for the purposes of your claim. The expert will prepare a report detailing your injuries and the prognosis for these to fully recover or reach a plateau if the injuries are severe.

If the expert recommends any treatment or further investigations then we would ask the Defendant’s insurers to fund these for you on a private basis, which should reduce your recovery time and get you back to your pre-accident fitness (where possible) as swiftly as possible. Once all evidence is complete and you are satisfied that your injuries have made a sufficient recovery then we would enter into negotiations with the Defendant’s representatives to secure the best settlement possible for you, taking into account previous case law and valuation guidelines.

We would also ask you for details of any financial losses you have incurred as these can potentially be claimed back from the Defendants. These can include any prescription charges, travel expenses, gardening or DIY services or care and assistance from friends and family that you would not ordinarily have required had it not been for your injuries.

In the alternative, if the Defendants deny liability then the other side are under a duty to disclose all relevant documents in their possession and substantial reasons for their denial. Documents typically disclosed include risk assessments, training records, accident report forms, wages information, CCTV footage and inspection records. We would then review the same, request your comments on the denial of liability and then pick holes in the documents to respond to the Defendant’s representatives with some counter points.

The Defendants may then either maintain their denial or admit liability. If the Defendants continue to deny liability then we would review your prospects of success and possibly seek a second opinion from a barrister or colleague to see if we can get around the Defendant’s arguments.

Even if we cannot continue with your claim any further, then there would be no charge to you if you have complied with the terms of the “no win – no fee” agreement signed by you. On the flip side, if the Defendant’s admit responsibility then we would follow the medical evidence procedure listed above.

 

Do I need to go to Court?

Please be assured that it is a myth that your case would need to go to Court. This only happens in a very small amount of cases as usually a settlement figure can be agreed informally with the Defendant’s representatives. The Court would only become involved if your case is reaching the three year limitation period, if the Defendant’s fail to respond or if an agreement on liability or compensation cannot be reached between the parties.

In addition, any case involving a child or a person lacking capacity must go to Court for them to agree the compensation figure to ensure that the figure is adequate as they are unable to assess this themselves.

However, please be assured that in most situations either no trial is required or this is a very small trial which may last less than an hour and your attendance may not be required. Your file handler would explain to you the full process if the Court did need to become involved.

 

WHAT TO DO NEXT

Oakwood Solicitors Ltd has a wealth of expertise in handling claims for compensation for those who have suffered accidents that are not their fault. If you have any questions about your claim, get in touch today for a no-obligation consultation with our Employers’ and Public Liability team.

Choose one of the methods on the right-hand side of this page, or call us on 0113 200 9787 to find out how we can help you.

 

Sources:
Reporting accidents and incidents at work: A brief guide to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) INDG453 (hse.gov.uk)
Legislation: Leading health and safety at work (hse.gov.uk)
Gross Negligence Manslaughter | The Crown Prosecution Service (cps.gov.uk)

Meet the author

Alex Singleton joined Oakwood Solicitors in April 2021 and is a Paralegal in the Employers’ Liability and Public Liability department, where she ensures Claimants receive the best outcome in their c…

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