What to do after an accident at work:-
1. If you are injured at work, it is extremely likely that your employer is responsible for the accident. It is one of the duties of your employer that he/she provide you with a safe place of work.
2. The employer’s duty is a general one and, usually, a specific one. If the employer is negligent and you are injured as a consequence, the employer is liable. In addition there are statutory obligations laid on employers, some of which are precisely directed at making specific workplaces safe. The employer must instruct a worker in the techniques of lifting, for instance. Loads must not exceed certain weights. If the employee is injured while lifting a load at work the context in which that happened may indicate the employer is liable.
3. These breaches of statutory duty can occur without the employer being negligent. There is no difference in outcome between a verdict (and compensation) for a worker for injury following breach of statutory duty and injury following the employer’s negligence.
4. As soon as possible after the accident, document it. In short record the facts; photograph the scene; write an account of the accident. Have the witnesses write an account of what they saw. Preserve physical objects if they are relevant.
5. You should take account of the fact that what seems a small injury may turn out to be serious in the long term. It is wiser to treat all injuries at work as serious and act accordingly. If the injury is minor you can, if you wish, discontinue any further action. If it is not minor you will have taken the correct steps and will not be handicapped in bringing your claim.
6. Practically every employer will have insurance cover to meet injury claims. It is a benefit to the employer to have notice from the employee of the employee’s injury and claim so that the employer may inform the insurance company. Furthermore, it is, effectively, necessary under statute that the employee notify the employer in writing within two months of the accident.
7. In addition, time will normally promptly begin to run against the injured worker to issue proceedings in court. The limitation period for such actions is currently two years. Actions commenced after the expiration of the time are inevitably going to be struck out without a trial or payment of compensation.
8. Plaintiffs suffering personal injury (other than arising from a health care situation) must apply to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board before they are permitted to issue proceedings in court. When they apply to PIAB and receive an acknowledgment from PIAB of the application, the statute of limitation time of two years is suspended while PIAB is considering the application. However, in due course the time will commence running again.
9. An injured worker needs a solicitor for the PIAB process and the court proceedings.
10. PIAB makes no judgement on the liability issue; just the quantum issue. If the employer or the insurance company wish to challenge the alleged circumstances of the accident, the case will emerge out of the PIAB system for that reason. It is essential to be prepared for that in doing the documentation of the accident.
11. Full documentation will usually involve the making of an assessment and report by a forensic engineer. The report will be preceded by a visit to the accident scene. The plaintiff’s documentation will be invaluable; accident scenes often change.
12. The plaintiff’s solicitor hires the forensic engineer.
13. After an exchange of pleadings and an exchange of medical reports, if the case does not settle by negotiation, the parties will clash at trial. Even cases that reach this stage normally settle “at the door of the court”. If the case does not settle, that is not a problem; litigation is really about the trial. The trial process is the governing idea over everything that went before. It is essential to have lawyers who are confident in the management of the trial process. (This is not to imply that it is fully controllable; sometimes witnesses do not furnish the expected answer to the question put to them).
14. In the light of that, the management of a claim is about the management of risk. Even a very poorly documented claim is a risk for the defendant; it is the job of the defendant’s lawyer to deal with the risk (subject to instructions) and buy it off on the best available terms.