The first issue to be considered when pursuing a compensation for an injury sustained in the workplace is whether a work injury has, in fact, been sustained. The plaintiff (the person making the claim) must have sustained some form of injury either physical or psychological in the course of his or her employment. Even where an employer has acted negligently, even criminally so, it should be noted that, with regard to the civil law, a potential plaintiff can only claim compensation for a personal injury, loss, or damage that he or she has in fact sustained. A near miss – other than where it can be proven to have caused, for example, a severe psychological trauma – is not sufficient to justify compensation being awarded.

Personal Injury at Work

“Injuries at work” do not necessarily always result from the direct action of an employer. The failure to provide and maintain a safe working environment for staff be it through lack of action or training and any other form of contributory negligence where it is apparent that the employer did not take the precautions required to protect employees from possible injury will almost certainly result in the employer being held liable for those injuries.

Liability for Injuries at Work

For a personal injury claim to be successful, the injury sustained must result from the negligence or breach of duty of someone who had a duty of care to the injured party. In almost all circumstances, employers owe a duty of care to their employees. The onus that the law places on employers in relation to protecting their employees is very strict indeed and, therefore, the law is very protective of employees and, although there are cases where employees may be injured through their own fault and no fault of their employers, it is fair to say that in a large proportion of cases where injuries are sustained in the workplace, it is possible to establish that an employer has not provided a safe place of work or a safe system of work or proper training to their employees, thereby giving rise to a liability on the part of the employer.

Contributory Negligence

In circumstances where there has been a disagreement between the employer and the employee as to who shall bear the responsibility for the accident (or more precisely there is doubt as to who is responsible), the court may decide, or indeed the parties may ultimately agree, that both the employer and the employee were partially at fault for the employee’s injury and in such circumstance the principle of contributory negligence will apply.

Contributory negligence is the legal principle that an injured party, i.e. the employee, may possibly have contributed to his or her own injury by acting in a negligent manner when faced with the obvious and known risks, which may reduce the amount of compensation awarded. Often, for example, it may be agreed that the employee bore 25% of the responsibility for his or her accident while the employer was responsible to a degree of 75%. In such circumstances, the employee’s damages will be reduced by 25%.

Your Employment Status

A work accident personal injury compensation claim cannot be pursued unless you have actually come to harm while in employment. This must be supported by evidence in the form of, for example, witnesses, medical examinations, health and safety reports, etc. An initial, if obvious query that should be addressed, is therefore to ascertain whether you were actually employed by the defendant at the time of the accident. Perhaps surprisingly, it is in fact a common occurrence for claimants to think they are employed by someone when such is not the case, because, for example, they are self-employed or were engaged as a sub-contractor or supplied by an agency. In such circumstances, it is important to note that a potential claim may nonetheless exist against a number of potential defendants e.g. the proprietors of the building in which you were working. A solicitor should still be consulted at the first opportunity. 

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