CASE EXPLAINED: ACCIDENT IN A WAREHOUSE
The client had an accident in a warehouse. She worked as a picker packer, collecting boxes from different departments in the warehouse. She was using a ladder and forklift truck on a daily basis. On the day of the accident she was trying to retrieve a box located on the top shelf. She reached the top step of the ladder. The box was placed on top of another box, making the task even more difficult. Someone had stacked the boxes too high. The client had to stretch and lift the heavy box. Due to the uncomfortable position, she injured her arm muscle. The pain caused her to lose her balance and she fell from the ladder.
An Accident at work qualifies for compensation if there was negligence on the side of the employer. Assessing liability is not an easy science. We may start with the question of whether the employer has done enough to avoid the accident from the legal point of view. There are potentially two issues in this case. The first one is the height of the shelf and the height of the ladder. In this case it was very difficult for the client to get the box from the top of the shelf. A properly conducted risk assessment (which is a mandatory obligation under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999), would have identified the potential risk of the accident occurring. There should be easier access to the top shelves, for example by providing a taller ladder, or other means of access. Also, the weight of the boxes should have been taken into consideration, with heavier items being stored on lower shelves.
The importance of the risk assessment was discussed in depth in the case of Smith LJ in Allison v London Underground Ltd  EWCA Civ 71. The employer creates the environment for people, and the employer is directly responsible for accidents that could reasonably be prevented.
In this case, an employee who was responsible for unloading boxes onto shelves, did not pay attention to the weight. In addition, he stacked the boxes on top of each other, making it even more difficult to retrieve boxes safely. It was likely that the employee did not received proper training. If an employee is at fault and has caused someone else to have an accident, even if the employee at fault has had adequate training, the general rule is that the employer will be responsible for providing compensation for any losses, and injury compensation. The employer is obligated to buy Employers Liability Insurance that covers accident claims that might be caused by workplace colleagues.
The insurer will pay compensation if a claim is successful. Most of the claims that involve another employee are likely to relate to an insurance claim rather than against the specific person who caused the accident.
INJURIES: SOFT TISSUE INJURIES
A fall from a ladder may cause extensive spine injuries or broken bones, however our client sustained some bruises and suffered soft tissue injuries to her left ankle and left knee. Her arm was also injured when she attempted to pull the heavy box towards her. Soft tissue injuries often occur when muscles, tendons or ligaments are over-strained or overused. Even though it does not sound as painful as a broken bone, it usually takes more time to heal, and may require treatment and sometimes even surgery. The client didn’t notice significant pain until the day after the accident, so there was some delay in the client reporting the accident. It is often the case that symptoms become more pronounced 1 or 2 days after the accident.
The client was unable to work for a few weeks. When she returned to work, her GP that she should only do light duties. She took pain killers for a long period of time.
WHAT WE DID
The client contacted us and provided us with a detailed description of the accident. We accepted the claim on the same day. The client was provided with the Conditional Fee Agreement that she could sign online. The agreement confirmed that we were representing her on a no-win no-fee basis.
The claim was submitted to the employer’s insurance company, who accepted the claim. We arranged for the client to have physiotherapy in a clinic that was local to the client. We ensured her health needs were fulfilled as soon as possible. The client was then seen by a medical expert who provided a professional prognosis regarding her injuries. Fortunately for the client, the medical expert predicted that she would recover within a year. While we focused on the legal aspects of the claim, the client was able to focus on her recovery. Finally, we negotiated compensation for the injury claim and lost earnings that were due to the accident related absence. The client was happy as her relationship to her employer did not change due to the claim, and she was able continue the job in a safer environment.
If you would like us to assess your potential claim for compensation arising from an accident, please contact us on 0161 639 0399.
You can also find more information about the injury claim process here.
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