Office Accident Claims
Although an office may seem like a safe environment compared to more perilous settings such as construction or agriculture, accidents do happen in an office, and if you are hurt due to someone else’s negligence, you have every right to claim compensation.
Most modern UK offices are designed with worker safety in mind, but still hundreds of people are injured in office-based accidents every year in the UK, according to Health & Safety Executive statistics.
Types of office accidents
There are a number of ways you can get hurt in an office environment, with some of the most common causes of accidents and their possible effects being:
- slips, trips or falls – you could fall off a rickety chair, trip over uncleared boxes or equipment, or slip on unsafe stairs or spillages, resulting in cuts, bruises, sprains, fractures or even spinal or brain injuries.
- lifting – moving heavy objects can cause serious strains, particularly to the back and neck;
- falling objects – objects on badly stacked shelves or cupboards can easily fall on unsuspecting office workers, causing lacerations, bruising fractures and head injuries;
- repetitive strain injury – repeating the same tasks over and over can cause this painful affliction to the joints, especially if you do not take enough breaks;
- walking into things – easily done if you’re distracted or something is put in the wrong place – and the resulting cuts and bruises can hurt;
- office implements – cuts and lacerations can be caused by all sorts of office kits, such as paper trimmers, while faulty electrical equipment can cause electric shocks;
- fights in the office – sometimes tempers run high and scraps breaking out in the office – which can result in nasty injuries – are more common in the office than some might think.
What duties does my employer have to protect me at work?
Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers have a legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to safeguard your health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace.
This duty applies whether you work full-time, part-time or on a self-employed or agency basis. If they fail in this duty and you are hurt as a result it is highly likely that you will have a valid claim for compensation.
Steps they need to take include
- conducting regular risk assessments that identify all workplace risks that might injure you, explaining the risks to you, and taking steps to minimise them;
- providing you with all the protective clothing and equipment you need to do your job safely, free of charge;
- making sure you are given enough supervision and training you need to work safely;
- conduct regular checks to any equipment or machinery on their sites to ensure it is safe to use;
- making sure the work environment is clean;
- ensuring you take the daily and weekly rest breaks that you are entitled to;
- allowing you access to first aid equipment, drinking water and washing facilities.
How do I prove negligence?
To successfully bring a claim for compensation for an office accident, you need to prove that the person to blame for your injuries was negligent. This means showing that:
- they owed you a duty of care (employers generally do);
- that they breached that duty; and
- that you were injured as result.
For most workplace accident cases, negligence would be found if the employer responsible had failed to act how a ‘reasonable man’ or the famous ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ would act in a similar situation.
What evidence do I need to bring a compensation claim?
An experienced personal injury lawyer needs evidence to ensure that your case is as strong as possible. Some evidence you can collect at the scene of the accident, while the rest can be gathered afterwards. This includes:
- names and contact details of any eyewitnesses to the accident;
- photos of the accident scene and your injuries;
- the entry in the workplace accident book;
- records of any medical treatment required following the accident;
- any CCTV footage of the event, which your employer must legally hand over;
- a written account of the accident and how your injuries have affected you;
- details of any expenses which have arisen from your injury, and those that will arise in the future, such as lost earnings because you needed to take off work to recover.
How can a solicitor help?
If your employer has broken health and safety laws which results in you being hurt in an office accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
They will help you amass the evidence you need to succeed in your case and refer you to a medical expert to assess your injuries and the effect they have had on your life. They will also ensure all the paper work is in order and strive to win you the out-of-court financial settlement you deserve, or advise and represent you in court if your case goes that far.
What are the time limits for bringing a claim and how will I pay for it?
You have three years under the Limitation Act 1980 to bring a claim from the time of the accident or from the point the seriousness of your injuries becomes clear (whichever comes later)/ It is, however, a good idea to bring your claim as soon as possible while the accident details are still fresh in your mind and in that of anyone else involved.
If you have a strong case, your solicitor is likely to accept your case on a no-win no-fee basis. This means you pay your solicitor nothing if you lose or a pre-agreed percentage of your compensation (usually 25 per cent), if you win.
What is the procedure for bringing an office accident claim?
Your claim will usually be brought by your solicitor using the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury (Employers’ Liability and Public Liability) Claims, which sets standards and procedures that parties to a claim must adhere to when bringing a claim and the time limits involved.
If your claim is particularly complicated or of very high value it may fall outside the pre-action protocol: your solicitor can advise you of your options if this applies to you.
How much compensation will I receive?
The compensation you receive will depend on the extent of your injuries and how long it takes you to recover, but could include damages for:
- pain and suffering (mental or physical);
- loss of earnings;
- medical expenses;
- loss of potential earnings;
- out of pocket expenses;
- adaptations required to your home.
Will I bankrupt my boss if I make a claim?
All employers must by law take out employers’ liability insurance to cover any compensation claims made. This means you will not leave your employer in financially hard up if you make a compensation claim against them, as the insurance company will pay.
Can my boss fire me if I make a claim?
You should not fret about your employer firing you or treating you adversely if you make a claim, as to do so would be illegal, entitling you to take your employer to an employment tribunal.