By Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor
Injuries at work compensation claims are often a delicate issue because the employee usually wishes to remain working for the employer and does not want to damage working relationships. This requires a solicitor to proceed with a claim for injuries at work in a way that reduces the risk of damaging confrontations. However, before a claim for injuries at work can be initiated, it has to be established that an injury has been sustained due to the lack of care of your employer.
Establishing a Work Injury has been Sustained
The first issue to be considered when pursuing 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 to qualify for work injury compensation.
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 work 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.
Consequently it is essential that, whenever a work injury has been sustained, professional medical attention is sought immediately at the Accident and Emergency Department of the nearest hospital or at your GP. Without an entry in your medical history and a medical assessment completed by your doctor, it will be exceptionally difficult to make a successful claim for injuries at work.
Furthermore, should you delay a professional medical examination, initially relying on first aid or administering to your injuries when you return home, it could be claimed by your employer´s insurers – the entity ultimately responsible for paying work injuries compensation – that you contributed to the severity of your work injury by your own lack of care. This might not disqualify you from making injuries at work compensation claims, but it could affect how much compensation for injuries at work you receive.
Liability for Injuries at Work
Injuries at work do not necessarily always result from the direct action – or inaction – of an employer. The failure to provide and maintain a safe working environment for staff – be it through lack of action or training or any other form of negligence – or 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.
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, although there are cases where employees may be injured through their own fault, 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 and Claims for Injuries at Work
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),a 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, or failed to seek appropriate medical attention within a reasonable amount of time which exacerbated the severity of the injury.
If you are in any doubt about whether you qualify for compensation for a work injury, or whether you may have contributed to either the cause of the accident or severity of your injury, you should speak with a solicitor at the first practical opportunity.
Making Claims for Injuries at Work Compensation
Although the whole purpose of this article is to explain the benefits of using a solicitor when making compensation claims for injuries at work, it is possible to pursue a claim independently through the Injuries Board Ireland. However, while you are waiting for the Injuries Board to obtain consent from your employer to assess your claim, arrange a medical and complete their assessment, your solicitor could already be well advanced in direct negotiations with your employer´s insurance company.
Furthermore, unless you are confident about communicating every element of your claim that you may be entitled to compensation for, it is highly likely that the Injuries Board´s assessment could be far less than you expect – or need – to pay for medical costs and support your family if you are unable to work. Should this be the case – and you are forced to engage a solicitor to pursue your claim through the courts – you may have wasted valuable time in the resolution of your case.
Solicitors will advise you to submit an application to the Injuries Board, even when a direct approach is being made, but only after they have reviewed it to ensure your claim is assessed for the maximum value possible. Should negotiations be unable to resolve your claim for injuries at work, by already having submitted your application for assessment, it will take considerably less time to obtain the “Authorisation” you need from the Injuries Board in order to allow you to pursue your claim through the courts.
How Much Compensation for Injuries at Work?
Compensation claims for injuries at work have to take into account many different elements. You are not only entitled to compensation for any physical pain you have experienced due to an accident at work or attributable to a condition which has developed over a period of time, but also any psychological trauma you have suffered due to the nature of your injury and the consequence it has on your quality of life.
You are also eligible for additional compensation if your injuries at work prevent you from performing day-to-day tasks, enjoying an active social life or participating in leisure pursuits and hobbies. Your “loss of amenity” can be a significant factor in an award of compensation for injuries at work if you have young children or elderly parents who need caring for or if you suffer from depression due to your incapacitation.
You are also entitled to recover any quantifiable financial costs of an injury work – not just your loss of income, but also the expenses of obtaining medical treatment, using alternative forms of transport if you are unable to drive and even re-structuring your home if your accident at work has left you confined to wheelchair. You should speak with a solicitor to establish what expenses can be recovered and keep receipts for anything you spend while recovering from your injury at work.
Claims Advice for Injuries at Work
As you can see from the above, no two compensation claims for injuries at work are likely to be the same – even when the injuries sustained are identical. Issues which can further affect how much compensation for injuries at work you may be entitled to include your employment status, direct approaches by insurance companies and sometimes even your profession.
Therefore, it is in your best interests to seek claims advice for injuries at work from an experienced solicitor as soon as possible after receiving treatment for your injuries from a medical professional. Most solicitors will offer a free initial assessment of your personal situation and advise you whether you have a claim for compensation for a work injury which is worth your while to pursue.
If so, your solicitor will advise you of the procedures you should take to support injuries at work compensation claims, ensure you receive your maximum entitlement to compensation for injuries at work and – equally as important for many plaintiffs – avoid damaging a working relationship with your employer.
- Claims for injuries at work can be a delicate issue if you do not want to potentially damage working relationships with your employer.
- You can reduce the risk of an unpleasant confrontation when claiming compensation for injuries at work with the assistance of a solicitor.
- A solicitor will ensure that liability for your injuries at work is established and assist you with your application for assessment to the Injuries Board Ireland.
- He or she will also attempt to resolve your claim quickly via direct negotiation with your employer´s liability insurers.
- Claims for injuries at work do not have to originate from a specific incident – injuries can be acquired in the workplace over a period of time: if you have just been diagnosed with any kind of work-related injury, it is in your best interest to speak with a solicitor at your earliest possible opportunity.
It is important to note that each claim for injuries at work is unique. If you have suffered injuries at work and feel that you have a potential injuries at work claim, you strongly are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the above article with a qualified solicitor at the earliest opportunity.
Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.