Accident at Work? Should You Claim?

When I’m playing golf for some reason I often hear from other golfers who have had an accident at work and they want to know if it is right to make a claim and if there can be any consequences for doing so. They are concerned with adverse affects that it may cause in their day to day working environment and also worry about career progression being held up or stopped altogether because they made a claim against their employer. I’ll go through a few of the questions I receive below and my usual answers.

Is it right to make a personal injury claim for an accident at work?

Usually I’d say yes. If the injury occurred because of somebody else’s mistake, error or negligence and it has caused you to be in pain, take time off work, incur costs or lose your job then it’s definitely worth making a claim as you have lost out and it wasn’t your fault. If however your injury was caused by flouting your employers working recommendations, you were messing around or you thought you would do something your own way then the answer is probably not.

Will my employer discipline me for making a claim?

No. It is against the law to sack an employee or discipline them for making a claim. Your employer has a duty of care to you and your colleagues and anyone else on the premises. If there’s a genuine claim then they can’t sack you because of it.

Who will know about my accident?

Your employer should already know about the accident as it’ll have been recorded in their accident log book. I always used to check this had happened and I’d advise you check as soon as possible that it has been recorded. Your employer should then report any serious injuries to the Health And Safety Executive under Injury, Disease and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations (RIDDOR).

Furthermore the compensation recovery unit at the Department for Work and Pensions must also be told of any personal injury at work claim.

Will my colleagues resent me for claiming?

This shouldn’t happen. The claim will usually be made by a solicitor. Your employer will refer it to their solicitor and then it will be dealt with between them. Your colleagues will probably never know and if your boss did tell someone else then there’s probably a case for breach of privacy but I won’t go into that on this post today!

So how does the claim process work?

This is the bit you employ your claim management company or lawyer for so what do they do?

Well to start with they gather all of the facts from you. What happened? Where did it happen? Who witnessed it happening? When did it happen? What injuries did you sustain? What time off work was there? Did you visit the doctors or hospital (if so they gather medical reports and x-rays)? Are there any long term affects on your health?

Once all of those things are assessed your lawyer or claim manager will work out a figure for your claim and then make a claim either to your employer or via their lawyer. The employer will then either admit liability or not for your accident at work. If they admit that they are liable then it is quite straightforward case, usually between the lawyers, of claim and counter-claim until an an amount that is agreeable by both parties is reached.

If your employer doesn’t agree that they are liable then your lawyer will present the evidence you have provided to prove your case. This is why it essential to gather as much evidence as possible when discussing your case from the outset. I used to ensure I was fully armed with evidence to counter the usual standard responses from company lawyers. If you’re unprepared for their questions then it’s a very easy case for them to deny the blame.

To sum up: if your employer is negligent or an accident has happened because of poor practise or processes not being followed and you get injured then you are likely to have good reason to make a personal injury claim against your employer, you can not be sacked for claiming against your employer as you’d probably have a good case for unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal and in most cases the case and your claim will be dealt with behind the scenes by lawyers minimizing the impact on you and your colleagues. Companies are required to have insurance to cover costs for your injuries and it should create no bad feeling for you when you return to work.

G Macs final thought

Employers aren’t bad people, it’s not them versus you and usually they agree that is right for you to be compensated if they’ve made a mistake. Most use it as a learning exercise to put things right so that the same thing doesn’t happen again.

My Old Life as a Personal Injury Lawyer

In my life I have often been asked what life is like for a personal injury lawyer. Many people assume that a personal injury lawyer is impervious to the many stories of pain and suffering because we have heard so many. They assume that we have made millions of dollars during our careers and that we live life doing whatever we please.

Now that I have retired and am living in the UK I have had time to really consider what my old life as a personal injury lawyer was like, and I thought it could make an interesting blog post, so here it is.

A Personal Injury Attorney

To understand what my life was like then you have to understand what I did professionally. As a personal injury claims lawyer I went to battle for people who, through no fault of their own, had been injured by someone else’s negligent behaviour.

Many of the people I represented were injured to the point that their entire lives were changed forever. If those individuals did not have legal representation then the insurance companies would have paid them a small pittance that would not have been anywhere near the amount of money they had to put out on their injuries. I feel that I was an advocate for the people who could not stand up and fight for their own rights. I was a crusader for equality, and justice.

What kind of cases I was Involved in

During my days of active practice I represented people who were injured in slip and fall accidents, auto accidents, heavy machinery accidents, medical malpractice injuries, sports related injuries, birth related injuries and just about any other personal injury you could think of.

I represented any person who came to me with an injury that was the result of actions of another person, the lack of actions of another person, or equipment failure. I helped people to negotiate with the insurance companies and their solicitors. Some injury claims lawyers only practice one specific type of injury law, but I have worked on almost every type there is.

What kind of person makes a good personal injury lawyer?

In order to be successful in this profession a person must be able to have empathy for the pain and suffering of others. A good personal injury lawyer cares about other people and is capable of visualizing themselves in situations that are closely related to the ones their clients are going through.

The professionals must be determined in order to put forth the effort it requires to fight the big insurance companies and make them pay for the damages their clients are responsible for. A personal injury claim is looked on by the big insurance companies as a nuisance. The insurance representative will do everything in their power to pay the injured party the least amount of money that they can for the damages caused in their accident.

Sometimes insurance representatives make offers to injured people so fast after an accident that the injured person does not even know the full extent of their condition. As an attorney representing the injured I scrutinized these offers to determine if they were fair, or if they were simply a way to get someone to take a little money and forget that they had their lives altered. As an attorney I had to be educated on all aspects of the personal claims laws, and I even had to have a working knowledge of medical terminology.

I would also say that these attorneys have to be ready to be available to their clients virtually 24/7. Not all clients can come into an office so the attorney must be willing to go to medical facilities and to private homes to meet with their clients. Being available and flexible is crucial if you want to be a successful personal injury lawyer.

What do I consider to be a successful personal injury lawyer?

I consider a lawyer that has a client base that is represented tirelessly to be successful. If the lawyer can look back on the cases they helped and see that in more than ninety percent of the cases the people they represented were better off for having known them then they were a true success.

If you can look back like I am doing now and see that for most of your clients you were able to negotiate a fair settlement that kept the client from having the hassle of court proceedings then you were successful.

G Macs final thought

If at the end of the day you can be proud of your accomplishments, if you can say you did your best, then you are a success. Personal injury is an emotional type of law that requires you to remain calm and collected despite how you are really feeling. It requires you to give your clients one hundred percent of your attention, and for you to devote however much time it takes to make sure that the injured are compensated for their loss.

How Much Compensation Will I Get?

Whenever I used to take on personal injury claims I would often be asked right at the beginning of the conversation “How much compensation will I get?” and I’d always explain that it’s not a random award, you’re not winning the lottery or a scratch card but you will be paid out for what it has actually cost you.

The money you get has to be justified and proven – the numbers aren’t just plucked out of the air to see what you’ll accept. The job of your legal team is to gather evidence that proves how much out of pocket you are now, how much of an impact it will have on your future life and earnings and what impact it had on you at the time of the accident.

I’ve dealt with many different types of compensation claims including: Neck and back whiplash, fractured bones, damaged teeth, facial scarring, hearing problems, brain damage, broken backs and vertebrae, loss of sight, hair damage (chemicals), Asbestos related injuries, pelvis injuries, amputations and also knee problems. This is just a small sample by the way, if I listed every injury type I think I’d need a bigger blog! As you can see the range of possible claims is massive and when you factor in severity and impact on any given individual you can start to see that answering the question of “how much will I get?” is impossible from the outset to answer.

Questions & Answers

When you instruct a personal injury lawyer or team their job is to ask you questions about what happened, this may seem like a questionnaire but it is in fact the start of the evidence for your claim.

Then they will talk with you about costs for things like medication, travel, loss of earnings and trips to the hospital etc. Then your doctors reports will be examined to work out the extent of your injury.

The amount of money per injury will fit into a range for each injury type and then the lawyer will work out, again with medical information provided or by sending you for a further assessment, how severe your injury is and where it fits into the scale of compensation amounts.

If your injury is already fully healed then the claim can be put forward to the insurers legal team for their assessment of your evidence. If you have ongoing symptoms then a doctor or medical professional will assess you so that your team can work out a length of time your symptoms will continue for.

Then using medical evidence they can work out how long you’re likely to continue needing treatment and also what effect the injury will have on you personally and professionally as well. For instance if you are a bus driver and you have a claim for torn ligaments the doctor may say you’ll be unable to drive for 6 months then your lawyer will claim for 6 months loss of work on top of the other claim amounts.

If you had a leg amputation however then the cost to you may be hugely different and so the compensation amount claimed for will be significantly higher. With life changing injuries like amputations there is also the psychological impact on your life to consider. I always used to use a different doctor for this side of the claim as it’s quite a tricky thing to assess correctly.

All of this evidence gathering may seem tedious at the time but a good personal injury claim will gather all of this information in advance of submitting a claim as once you’ve claimed and been paid out it’s often too late to go back and say ‘Actually, I forgot to tell you about this symptom….’

The number of factors to take into account when I was asked the question “How much will I get” meant that I’d usually say “Sorry, I can’t say just yet” because I didn’t want to leave myself open to complaints down the road when the amount claimed was less (no-one complains when it’s more though!) than I’d indicated.

I may make a ball park estimate but would be clear that it was not guaranteed. There are websites that offer a personal injury calculator depending on the injury type that give you an estimate too but those calculators can only take into account the injury itself without knowing anything about you personally and the impact it has on your life.

G Macs final thought

I used to, and most personal injury lawyers still do, offer a free consultation to start with so I’d recommend you speak with them first and then ask the question again when they know a bit more about your unique case, the impact on you and how it will affect you going forwards to get a more realistic answer to the question.