If you have been involved in an accident at work that causes personal injury, then you may be entitled to claim compensation. Contact MKB Law at the earliest opportunity as there are strict time limits within which you are entitled to make a claim. You will receive clear advice, an understanding of the time-scales, procedures involved and what funding options are available.
Employers duty of care
Your employer is obliged by law to take steps to protect you from injury and disease whilst you are at work. Legislation imposes duties on employers to carry out risk assessments to identify health and safety hazards and eradicate them.
Setting and maintaining hygiene standards
Ensuring that safe work practices and systems are put in place and followed
Providing safety equipment / protective clothing / first aid facilities
Regularly checking plant and machinery
Carrying out proper training
Keeping the workplace free of obstacles
Cleaning up spillages
Addressing bullying and harassment
Where you believe an employer has failed in his duty of care to you and you have been injured as a result, then you may be entitled to claim compensation.
An injury may be physical (such as bruising, cuts, scarring, fractures, muscle/ligament damage, burns, skin conditions, asbestosis, hearing loss, loss of sight, head trauma) but it can also be psychological such as stress or post traumatic stress disorder. Your recovery may be mercifully rapid but work-related injuries all too frequently result in permanent, devastating and catastrophic outcomes. They can seriously affect your future employment and ability to provide for your family.
What should I do?
If you are injured or contract a disease at work, you should carry out the following at the earliest opportunity:
Tell your employer or ensure he is notified
Complete the Accident Book or have it completed on your behalf
If the incident is sufficiently serious, ensure it is reported to the Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI)
Seek immediate medical attention where appropriate from a first aider, a hospital or your own doctor
Keep careful records of the losses and expenses which you incur (typically these include wages which you could not earn as a result of being off work, repair/replacement costs of damaged personal items or taxi fares to medical appointments)
It is important to remember that if you are injured as a result of something a fellow worker did or failed to do, your employer is also responsible for those acts or omissions.
How long will my claim take?
This very much depends on your employer’s approach to it and on the length of time the medical professionals need to properly determine the speed of your recovery or that your symptoms are likely to be permanent. Your employer is required by law to put insurance in place to deal with work-related claims. The insurance company may take the view, having investigated the circumstances, that the employer has:
Been in breach of his duties to you, in which case they normally, on receipt of medical evidence and information on wage loss and the other records referred to above, commence negotiations with us. Provided your symptoms do not persist, it is our experience that in these circumstances compensation will have been agreed within 1 year of you first consulting with us
Not been in breach of his duties to you, and is therefore not at fault. It may also allege that you are partly to blame. This is called contributory negligence. Where liability is denied, wholly or in part, Court proceedings may have to be commenced and it then becomes much more difficult to assess the duration of a claim. The Courts have put in place procedures to ensure that cases are moved forward as quickly as possible and we at MKB Law employ quality assurance systems to ensure that delays are kept to a minimum.
What is involved?
At your first consultation our specialist solicitors take detailed instructions from you of the circumstances giving rise to your injury, your medical symptoms, and of any financial losses. You should have the following available for that meeting:
photographic ID, such as your passport or driving licence
a utility bill, bank statement or similar document addressed to you at your home address
your National Insurance Number
your employer’s name and address
wage slips prior to the accident/injury
records of any financial loss you have suffered (see above)
details of any medical treatment, including any hospitals attended and the name and address of your own doctor
The specialist solicitor appointed to deal with your case will write to your employer with details of your claim. The insurance company is obliged by Court Rules to investigate and furnish a full response within 3 months of our letter. It is at that stage that we can determine whether negotiations are to commence or whether Court proceedings are necessary. You will be kept fully informed throughout and will retain full control of the decision-making process.
Medical evidence will be required to substantiate your claim. If you have attended hospital or your own doctor as a result of your injuries we will ask you to complete at a Form of Authority to release hospital and/or GP notes and records to us. These will be reviewed with you, and will not be shared with anyone without your specific authority. If it becomes necessary to provide copies of GP notes and records to the insurance company or its solicitors we take great care in agreeing with you which entries are not relevant to the claim and can therefore be withheld.
You may have to attend with a medical consultant who will be asked to prepare a report for us. Consultants are specialists in the fields of medicine in which they practice and are therefore best placed to fully assess your injuries and the extent of any recovery you will make. We are very selective in the Consultants we use to ensure the highest quality of reports and that our clients are treated with the respect they deserve. The advice we give all our clients who have been injured at work is that in preparation for any appointments with consultants they should from the outset keep detailed notes of the dates of any hospital/doctor’s appointments, medication prescribed or taken, symptoms, and how day-to-day activities have been affected.
If there is an issue about how an accident arose, it may be necessary for you to attend an inspection where it happened with an engineer appointed by us. Again, we are selective about the engineers we employ who each have substantial Court experience.
What costs are involved?
The legal costs of claims up to £30,000 are set out in a scale. Statistically, most cases come within that limit. There is therefore a degree of certainty in the budget which we can advise from an early stage. Whilst our clients are responsible for our fees we tend to find that in the vast majority of successful claims the scale costs and outlays (such as the cost of medical records and reports) recovered from the insurance company fully discharge our clients’ liabilities to us.
The Law Society of Northern Ireland does not permit us to act on your behalf on a “no-win no-fee” basis but we will immediately explore with you how a claim might be funded. We can make an application for legal aid on your behalf, and if you are not financially eligible we are one of only a number of practices in Northern Ireland which currently has access to after the event (“ATE”) insurers. A typical ATE policy insures all of the costs of Court proceedings except for your own Solicitor’s fees and in return the insurance company gets a percentage of any compensation you are awarded. ATE insurance therefore provides peace-of-mind in terms of the costs risk that a claim might involve.
No matter how your claim is to be funded you can rest assured that you will be given as accurate a budget as we can provide at the earliest opportunity. It is worth repeating that we find in the vast majority of cases our clients are not out of pocket at all because the scale costs and outlays are paid by the employer’s insurance company