So you’ve been an injured in an accident at work.
Worried where a compensation claim would leave you?
Many people worry that a compensation claim against their employer might see them being sacked. Or, if not sacked, then cold-shouldered, harassed and effectively forced to resign.
First things first: in most cases, fears like this are totally unfounded. You can’t be fired for making a legitimate compensation claim against your employer following a workplace accident, and such a claim is unlikely to cause you issues at work.
If you work for a large company with an HR department, the firm may not even be aware that a claim’s taking place. Only if you work for a smaller firm, with no HR personnel, might you be unlucky enough to receive negative treatment – and even then, this would be rare.
In short, you should think of a compensation claim as a fair legal process rather than something which could antagonise your employer. We deal with countless cases that are resolved without any ill feeling.
Now let’s cover the situation in more detail.
Table of contents
- I’ve had an accident at work. What now?
- What should I do immediately after a workplace accident?
- What else should I do?
- I’m worried I’ll be sacked if I make a claim. What are my rights?
- What happens if my claim causes bad relations with my employer?
- Will my claim be successful?
- Your questions answered
I’ve had an accident at work. What now?
By law, UK employers have a duty of care to their employees. This means that while you’re at work, your employer is required to:
- provide you with regular training to carry out your job (this includes training you in the safe use of necessary equipment)
- take reasonable steps to keep you free from harm, including putting safety precautions in place and undertaking risk assessments
- provide you with personal protective equipment when needed
All this means that if you’ve been injured in an accident, and there’s evidence your employer has fallen short of these legal standards, you’re likely to be due compensation for any losses you’ve suffered.
What should I do immediately after a workplace accident?
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to sustain an injury, there are certain steps to follow.
Firstly, report what’s happened to your employer as soon as possible. Try to ensure there’s a written record of the accident. This will most likely be in your employer’s Accident Report book, although if this is impossible, you can put it in writing to your employer by other means. Never sign an Accident Report that is inaccurate – especially if you haven’t had a chance to read it or contribute to it.
If needed, you should also escalate your report to the relevant government agency, in this case the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Under the HSE’s Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (known as RIDDOR), your employer is obliged to report certain serious workplace accidents to the HSE.
A written record is a very helpful part of a claim, but don’t despair if you don’t have one. We deal with many kinds of injury compensation claims, and can offer you the best advice for your particular situation.
What else should I do?
More immediately, try to take photos of your injuries, and the place where the accident occurred. If you’ve been asked to work in an unsafe location, for example, you’ll need to prove this. Should you be too badly injured to take photos yourself, and it’s feasible to ask someone else to do this, always do so.
That said, it’s worth pointing out that if taking photos proves impossible, there’s no need to panic. It certainly doesn’t mean your claim will fail.
Another important piece of advice is to seek medical attention for your injuries. If you’ve been badly hurt this goes without saying, but if your injuries are genuine yet more subtle – or likely to worsen over time – then medical advice won’t just help you in the short-term, it will also give you further evidence to submit, in the event of a claim.
One other tip. Most employers will act with integrity in the case of an accident, but some may try to pressure you into signing a form that effectively asks you to accept liability for the incident. Try to avoid doing this (although depending on the situation, a tribunal or court may choose to disregard it in any case).
I’m worried I’ll be sacked if I make a claim. What are my rights?
Your rights are simple. Your employer is not allowed to fire you for proceeding with a legitimate claim. Remember, all employers are required by law to have insurance in place. Employees sometimes hold back from making a valid claim after an accident, wrongly thinking they’ll be leaving their employers out of pocket. But if you do make a successful claim, any compensation will be paid by the insurance company, rather than your employer.
Apart from keeping your job, you also have other rights if you’ve been injured in a work accident, such as being placed on light duties until you recover. Be aware that there’s a three-year limit associated with workplace-related personal injury claims. These claims can sometimes be time-consuming, so our advice would be to get the ball rolling early. The three years begin from the time of the accident.
It goes without saying, of course, that you need to be honest throughout the process. If any part of a claim is dishonest or misleading, it could lead to the claimant’s employment being terminated. The risk of criminal prosecution could also come into play.
One other important point. If you do find yourself in a situation where you’ve been sacked following a legitimate claim – which is thankfully rare – you would then have a further case to claim for unfair dismissal. Employees can only be sacked after an accident for their own gross misconduct, or for being drunk or intoxicated at the time of the incident.
What happens if my claim causes bad relations with my employer?
The majority of reputable employers will view a valid claim in a rational way, rather than seeing it as personal. The truth is, however, that a minority of small businesses do occasionally take claims badly, and may even retaliate by making things more difficult for their employee. If relations between you and your employer do start to sour, to the point where you’re being harassed and unfairly treated, you may feel you have no option but to resign. In this instance, you could have a case for constructive dismissal.
Our partner firm has a leading employment law team who can give advice on your rights, and on what your employer can and cannot do. If, as a result of making a claim, your employer’s behaviour changes and your working environment becomes toxic, it’s important to seek advice immediately.
For constructive dismissal claims, you need to make a claim within three months of resigning.
Will my claim be successful?
This depends. A claim needs to demonstrate negligence on the part of your employer. This could be in the form of anything from insufficient training or substandard equipment to poor health-and-safety guidelines.
But if negligence can be shown, and if you’ve suffered loss of earnings, been negatively impacted or been unable to work as a result of your injury, then there’s a strong chance your claim will be successful. The amount that’s due to you will depend on various factors, including the nature of the accident, the severity of the injury and the length of time you’ve been affected.
Any other questions? Feel free to get in touch for a no-obligation consultation.