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What to do if you have an accident at work

Accidents have a habit of happening to us. However, we do not go to work to suffer injury and when accidents happen, it is very frequently because of something the employer or perhaps another co-worker has done or has failed to do which has thereby brought about the hazard. Some workplaces are by their nature more hazardous than others, but there is a risk of accident with related injury in any workplace – that’s why there are laws which were designed to offer protection to employees in the workplace.

When an accident happens, things can happen quite quickly, so it is as well to be prepared in the event that you have the misfortune to be involved in an accident yourself. Here are some pointers from an experienced personal injury associate solicitor:

1.    All employers (with the exception of very small employers) are required to keep an accident book. Make sure that your accident is recorded in your employer accident book as soon as is practically possible. Make sure that you record clearly and factually how the accident happened and why. Check that you are happy with what you have written before you sign it. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to alter it afterwards. If the accident book is completed on your behalf by someone else, again be sure that you read it carefully before you sign it. If it is not accurate, then do not sign it, but instead submit a correct record to your employer in writing and explaining why you are doing so. Remember to keep a copy for your records. If your employer does not have an accident book, then make a factual written record and send this to your employer. Again, remembering to keep a copy for your records.

2.    If possible, take photographs or otherwise evidence of the cause of the accident, be it a failed piece of work equipment or component, a missing guard, unsafely loaded pallet or roller cage or an untidy work place with tripping hazards. If you cannot do it yourself, get someone to do it for you.

3.    If your injury causes you absence from work, check your contract of employment (or written statement of terms and conditions) to see what pay or benefits you may be entitled to receive from your employer or whether (if the accident is caused by someone other than your employer) the pay you do receive is paid as a loan which must be repaid in the event that a compensation claim is successfully made.

4.    If there were witnesses to the accident, record names, home addresses and contact details, such as phone number and email address, as people move on.

5.    The law requires that employers and others report deaths or certain types of injury, some occupational diseases and dangerous occurrences that ‘arise out of or in connection with work’ and result in absence from work for seven days or more to the Health & Safety Executive. Make sure if possible that your employer has complied with its reporting obligation.

6.    See your doctor. Even if the injury is modest, attending your doctor provides a contemporaneous record of the nature of the injury suffered and therefore useful evidence for future reference. More significant injuries will doubtless result in the need for medical consultation in any event.

7.    If you are ill or assessed as disabled due to injuries suffered in an accident at work, then investigate  eligibility  to claim applicable state benefits, for example Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) or if there are substantial care needs you may be eligible to claim a care allowance. In the event of a successful compensation claim, most state benefits will have to be repaid by the compensator – usually an insurer – to the Benefits Agency and may be also be deducted against elements of the compensation award.

8.    Keep records of expenses incurred as a result of the injury, such as receipts for prescription expenses and non-NHS treatment costs and details of travelling, for example to attend for hospital treatment or consultation, remembering  to include dates of travel, mileage , destination and the reason for a trip. Consider keeping a diary of events, including a description of symptoms and their effects upon daily activity and the care you may receive from loved ones, e.g. with washing and dressing or changing bandages.

9.    Seek independent advice form a local specialist personal injury claims solicitor in order to best protect your interests. Ignore any offer of ‘help’ you may receive, but may not have asked for, either from  the employer’s liability insurer or any other party acting on its behalf, in relation to your contemplated claim.

David Peake is an associate solicitor at Everys Solicitors, based at their Exeter office, but serving the region through their network of branch offices in Devon and Somerset.

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