Many people have speculated over the years as to the level of valid personal injury claims which are never pursued as victims see them as “just an accident”. Unfortunately, many accidents do happen as a consequence of negligence on behalf of one or more parties even if it is not necessarily obvious at first. So, if you have received an injury as a consequence of “an accident” it may well be worth seeking legal advice to clarify whether or not you could claim compensation.
Accidents In The Workplace
When you consider there are in excess of 1.3 million people suffering work related illnesses in the UK (2016/17 financial year) and 31.2 million working days lost as a consequence of work-related illness/injury this puts the situation into perspective. It is naive to suggest that anything but the vast majority of these workplace accident claims were a consequence of negligence on behalf of one or more parties.
All employers have a legal obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. While there are hundreds if not thousands of additional regulations introduced to cover specific challenges in different areas of the workplace, it is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which is often used to prove negligence.
Employer Obligations Towards Their Employees
As well as a general legal liability to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees, all employers are legally obliged to take into account the following issues:
- Initial and ongoing training regarding health and safety
- Initial and ongoing training regarding specific employment roles
- The maintenance of all machinery and equipment
- Appointing appropriately experienced personnel for specific tasks
- Carrying out regular risk assessments for all procedures and reducing the risk of accidents and injuries to employees as much as possible
- Providing safety clothing and equipment
- Ensuring sufficient rest breaks during the working day
- Maintaining a clean and safe working environment
- Introducing relevant warning signage
This list is by no means inclusive but it does give you an idea about the various legal obligations which employers have towards their employees. There will be specific risks and issues to consider which may only be appropriate to a select number of employment roles. However, where there is risk there is a legal requirement for ongoing assessments to manage/reduce the risk as much as possible.
Road Traffic Accidents
Road traffic accidents are one of the most frequent types of personal injury compensation claims our solicitors deal with. RTA’s can involve pedestrians, drivers and passengers and take in all different types of vehicles. There will be instances where negligence/liability is shared between various parties which may result in what are known as “knock for knock” insurance claims (the insurance companies will pay out to their customer to save on legal fees). However, the vast majority of road traffic accident claims tend to involve one negligent party.
Common reasons for road traffic accidents include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Driving under the influence of drugs
- Badly maintained vehicles
- Inappropriate driving experience
- Challenging weather conditions
- Difficult road conditions
Again, this list is not inclusive but it does give you an idea of some of the more common reasons for road traffic accident. To add a further layer of complexity to the situation, where an accident occurs as consequence of road conditions, there may be a case for negligence against the local authority or general highways body.
There are a number of misconceptions when it comes to road traffic accidents because ultimately drivers, passengers and pedestrians have a legal obligation to act in a manner which ensures the safety of all around them. For example, where a pedestrian walks onto a road and a driver is involved in a crash as a consequence, resulting in injuries, the negligence and liability may well be traced back to the pedestrian. This is just one example where an accident might not be as straightforward as it may seem in the initial aftermath.
Public Liability Insurance
All businesses operating in the UK are legally obliged to obtain public liability insurance which ensures that in the event of injuries caused by negligence they will be in a position to pay out on any compensation award. This not only covers employees but also ensures that the general public and customers. If you have business premises then you should ensure that:
- The area is clear of clutter
- All spillages are cleared as soon as possible
- Areas not for public use are secured
- All equipment such as shelving a safe and secure
- Danger/warning signs are displayed prior to clearing spillages, etc
There is a grey area when it comes to business premises and the immediate access to highways and pathways which are generally deemed to be under the control of the local and national authorities. Where for example the path leading to a business premise is slippery due to weather conditions then the business owner may well be liable in the event of injury. However, an important point to note, this assumes that the business owner had sufficient time to clear the path or had not erected warning notices.
Faulty Equipment And Sub-Standard Services
We have seen many instances where faulty equipment in the home and substandard services have caused injuries. In the event that equipment was proven to be faulty and caused injury, this is fairly straightforward and should be reported to the manufacturer/retailer. There will also be instances where tradespeople have carried out various services around the home which have been found to be substandard resulting in injury.
As with so many areas of personal injury claims there is a common misconception that faulty equipment and substandard maintenance around the home are out-with the compensation system. If there has been any form of negligence by one or more third parties then there may well be potential to claim compensation for injuries received.
A Moral Dilemma?
Until recently there was quite a stigma attached to people pursuing personal injury compensation, amid suggestions they were “greedy” or simply “in it for the money”. It is fair to say there have been many “iffy” claims over the years which have to a certain extent fed this stigma. Thankfully, the authorities, insurance companies and personal injury claims sector have all worked hard to address these concerns even though the battle to reduce fraudulent claims is ongoing and fast-moving. However, when looking to claim compensation it is worthwhile looking at the bigger picture.
We know from past injury claims that companies are much more likely to review their working procedures, address safety issues and ultimately improve employee/public safety in the longer term when challenged with large compensation payments and fines. So, you could argue that it is the obligation of those who have suffered an injury as a consequence of negligence to hold those responsible to account. If these parties are not held to account then where is the incentive for them to improve safety going forward?
Identifying Negligent Parties
One frequently asked question revolves around proving negligence where one or more party is involved in an accident. Many people are under the impression that the claimant needs to prove negligence on behalf of each individual party, and to what degree, in order to even lodge a claim for compensation. In reality this is not entirely the case because the claimant only needs to name the potentially negligent parties in their compensation claim. There will obviously need to be evidence against the named parties but the degree of negligence is a matter for the courts after considering evidence from the defendants and the claimant.
Those who refuse to pursue compensation claims for injuries incurred as a consequence of an accident may well be left with potentially large financial obligations themselves. The idea that “accidents do happen” may be noble but if one or more parties were negligent, whether deliberately or not, is it fair for the victim to be left out-of-pocket? When you consider the impact an accident may have on an individuals finances it can be considerable, including:
- Loss of earnings
- Future loss of earnings
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Additional transport costs
- Adaptions to the home
It is therefore imperative that when involved in an accident you seek advice from a personal injury solicitor to clarify your legal position. Those who believe that individuals and companies would be forced to pay out on large compensation claims from their own resources have again been misadvised. Whether involved in a car accident, accident in the workplace or perhaps an injury on business premises, all of these situations should be covered by the statutory insurance requirements.
Not all accidents are the result of negligence but many accidents are an could and should have been avoided. If a company or individual has taken all necessary precautions to avoid injury, and fulfilled any legal obligations, then it would be difficult to prove negligence and pursue an injury compensation claim. However, if they failed to abide by their legal obligations then it’s almost certain you could claim compensation.
To confirm whether you have a case for claiming compensation please call us on 0800 652 1345.