I hurt my back at work because of lifting heavy boxes into the shop I work in but my manager says that I cannot claim shop assistant injury compensation because I am only 16 years old. Is that right?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Question:

I hurt my back at work because of lifting heavy boxes into the shop I work in but my manager says that I cannot claim shop assistant injury compensation because I am only 16 years old. Is that right?

Answer:

Provided that you have sustained an injury which has been examined by your doctor and recorded in your medical notes, and your injury was due to the negligence of your employer, you are entitled to claim shop assistant injury compensation. However, if you want to proceed with your shop assistant injury claim before you reach the age of eighteen, you will have to do so while being represented by a parent or guardian acting as your “next friend”.

This is because, in Ireland, you are not allowed to take any kind of civil action until you reach the age of eighteen and, if you are represented by a legal adult in your claim for being injured while working in a shop, any award of compensation made to you has to first be approved by a court and then will be held by the court in an interest bearing account until your eighteenth birthday. Although it seems very complicated, the reality is much different.

Usually your legal representative will engage a solicitor to investigate your shop assistant injury compensation claim. The solicitor will discuss with you the circumstances of your injury, what training you were provided with about how to lift heavy boxes and if you were given any mechanical aids to help you manoeuvre the heavy boxes into the shop.
Should it be established that your employer has been negligent by failing to provide you with a safe environment in which to work, and that negligence resulted in you sustaining your back injury, your solicitor will assist your legal representative in preparing and submitting a claim for shop assistant injury compensation to the Injury Board Ireland.

At the same time, your solicitor will also send a Letter of Claim to your employer, advising him that a shop assistant injury compensation claim has been made against him and inviting him to make an offer of settlement. Your solicitor will already have spoken with you about the extent of your injury, any long-term health issues you may suffer as a result and how your injury have affected your quality of life. Therefore, he or she will have a good idea about how much compensation for a shop assistant injury you are entitled to and will advise you should an offer be forthcoming.

If your employer denies his liability, fails to offer an appropriate settlement or the assessment from the Injuries Board Ireland fails to adequately take into account the consequences of your injury, your legal representative will be issued with an authorisation to pursue your claim for shop assistant injury compensation in court. Because your employer´s insurers will want to reduce their financial liabilities as much as possible, they may reconsider whether they wish to now accept liability for your injuries or increase their offer of shop assistant injury compensation.

Please note that when you make a claim for being injured while working in a shop, you are protected by law from any penalties imposed on you by your employer – irrespective of your age. However, it is in your best interests to discuss your injury – and the comments made to you by your manager – with a solicitor at the earliest practical opportunity.