There are numerous instances of musculoskeletal injuries received while moving and lifting furniture around at work and in the home. If you believe you have received an injury as a consequence of moving or lifting furniture around the workplace, or delivering to customers, you may well have a valid claim for compensation.
Duty Of Care And Manual Handling
Before we go any further it is worth noting that there are various regulations which legally oblige employers to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees including when lifting or moving heavy furniture. One particular act of Parliament relevant to the moving of furniture is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (Amended in 2002). This act was introduced to try and avoid instances of musculoskeletal disorder in the workplace as a consequence of manually handling heavy furniture.
There are certain jobs which involve the moving and lifting of furniture on a regular basis although there are still guidelines in place for the protection of employees. Under their duty of care, an employer should:
- Avoid, where possible, employees undertaking manual handling of furniture and other equipment which may involve a risk of injury.
- In the event that moving furniture is unavoidable, an assessment must be carried out before any action is taken to assess the potential risks.
- Precautions should be taken at all time to ensure the lowest level of risk reasonably practical thereby ensuring, as much as possible, the safety of employees.
- Instigate training in the lifting of heavy/cumbersome furniture to reduce the risk of injury.
- Provide the necessary equipment where applicable so that manual handling is kept to a minimum thereby reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
In essence these laws ensure that employers only instigate manual handling operations were necessary and in such circumstances the safety and well-being of all employees must be paramount. There may well be situations where an injury occurs at work as a consequence of lifting heavy furniture and sometimes awkward furniture. In such circumstances an employer may be able to prove they took as many precautions as possible to avoid injury and therefore fulfilled their duty of care. Where there is an obvious infringement of the duty of care this is where negligence and liability need to be proved to pursue a compensation claim.
You may also like to refer to our page on claiming compensation for manual handling injury.
Common Injuries From Lifting/Moving Furniture
The vast majority of musculoskeletal injuries occur in the upper limbs and neck area. These injuries can take in a whole array of different medical issues which include:
- Strains and sprains involving muscles and tendons.
- Cuts and abrasions to various areas of the body.
- Broken bones and fractures in the upper limbs, lower limbs and even the back area.
- In some instances concussion has been experienced as a consequence of accidents involving the moving of heavy equipment.
- Crush injuries such as heavy furniture landing on an unprotected foot – this is where safety equipment should be made available.
This list gives you an idea of the injuries which have occurred as a consequence of lifting and moving heavy furniture. The severity of the various injuries can vary massively and while some can be relatively minor others have led to a loss of limbs and even fatalities. While many of us take the lifting and moving of heavy equipment relatively lightly, there is an array of dangers that employers and employees should be aware of.
Claiming Compensation For Employer Negligence
While the general duty of care that employers have towards employees moving and lifting heavy furniture is vital to any compensation claim, in this particular instance the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (Amended in 2002) is often the primary test of negligence. As with any compensation claim, there is indeed a duty of care on the employee with regards to their own safety and that of other employees. It is therefore worth remembering that employees should also:
- Cooperate and abide by all health and safety guidelines.
- Notify employers of potentially dangerous manual handling practices.
- Ensure they are fully aware of the consequences of any actions they take.
- Fully utilise the safety equipment and protective clothing/footwear made available.
- Assist as far as possible with the safety of other employees.
While each compensation claim involving injuries from lifting furniture will be considered on a case-by-case basis, there may be instances where an employee is deemed to be partially negligent and partially responsible for their own injuries. This is not to say they will not receive any compensation from their employer, due to their potential part negligence, but this could be reduced in the event that an employee has ignored health and safety guidance or taken action outside of training information.
Even though employers are obliged by law to have in place liability insurance, there is still a need to prove negligence and liability in order to pursue a successful compensation claim. There may be some instances where an employer has failed to appreciate their legal duty of care and legal responsibilities which could see some insurance companies reclaiming the cost of any compensation payouts. It is worth noting that whatever the circumstances surrounding a successful furniture related compensation claim, the claimant will receive their payment in full.
Compensation For Lifting/Moving Furniture Injury
When pursuing compensation for injuries received from the lifting and moving of furniture at work or as a consequence of negligence by other third parties, there are two specific types available.
The first is general damages and includes payment for:
- Pain and suffering directly caused by the furniture
- Mental trauma from your injury
- Life changing injuries
As you can imagine, the variety and severity of injuries as a result of carrying heavy furniture can vary enormously. Solicitors and insurance companies will refer to similar historic injuries as a basis for potential general damages compensation although there is a degree of discretion. The second type of compensation are special damages, which is simply financial redress for your costs due to the injury and future costs. Special damages include:
- Loss of earnings directly caused by the furniture injury
- Future loss of earnings
- Modifications to your home
- Medical expenses for the injury
- Prospective medical expenses
- Additional transportation costs
There’s no discretion or variance on this type of compensation because it is purely financial redress for costs incurred and future costs. When you bear in mind the potential severity of injuries received from moving and lifting heavy furniture, and the impact upon a person’s working life, the cumulative level of compensation can sometimes be significant.
Starting A Claim For Injury Caused By Lifting Furniture
As with any injury from lifting heavy furniture, whether relatively minor or severe, it is imperative that medical assistance is requested as soon as possible. Injuries such as concussion may not emerge until a number of hours after the event therefore it is vital that victims are checked over and any relevant treatment received. It is also worth noting that paramedics, doctors and hospitals will make a note of your injuries on your medical records as well as how and when they occurred. They will also detail any treatment required which is all very useful when lodging your claim for compensation.
Where possible personal injury solicitors advise taking pictures of where the injury occurred and the injuries received. If there are any witnesses that saw you lifting the furniture when you were injured it would be useful to take their contact details and obtain a statement of their observations if a claim is pursued. So we have medical evidence, images from the scene of the accident and hopefully witness statements coming together to create a strong case. However, the key to a successful prosecution is proving negligence on behalf of one or more third parties. This is where the experience of a personal injury solicitor is invaluable because they will be able to advise fairly quickly whether you have a strong case.
It is worth noting that where two or more parties may be negligent and potentially liable to compensation, it is not the task of the claimant to prove the level of negligence of any one party. A claim can still be lodged with the courts pointing to potentially shared negligence and liability and it will be up to the courts to rule on this. The vast majority of injury compensation claims involving lifting heavy furniture tend to proceed on a No Win No Fee basis, with many claims never actually reaching the court room. Where negligence and liability are fairly obvious, it is likely that a defendant will look for an out-of-court settlement to reduce their legal fees and bring to a close what can often be a distressing situation.
If you have been lifting or moving furniture which has caused you injury and believe it was simply due to the negligence of another person please call us today and we can advise on whether you have a claim for compensation.