For many, having an accident at work is much more than a simple inconvenience, it can be a life changing event that has a knock on effect for the rest of their life. It can be a tough decision to make an accident at work claim * against an employer, for many there is a sense of loyalty and trust that can be seen as being broken if a claim * is made, as well as other worries that can mount up on the claimant. Ultimately though, if there is demonstrable negligence from your employer within the circumstances of your workplace injury you are entitled to make an accident at work claim * against them.
There are a number of different reasons why a person who is entitled to make a legitimate claim * may choose not to. This article highlights some of the most common reasons that we encounter for not pursuing compensation and explains why a claim * should be made against these reasons.
- You are entitled to compensation
Not every accident that takes place in the workplace is eligible for a legal claim * against an employer. There are, however, many claims * that are not pursued due to the employee not knowing about a shortcoming from their employer that played a part in their workplace accident. The law in Ireland places the onus on the injured worker to prove that the accident was caused by negligence or a breach of statutory duty from the employer. This means that if the employer was fully compliant with all applicable health and safety rules and standards and that the accident was unfortunate and wholly unforeseeable, any claim * made against them would not be upheld – irrespective of the severity of an injury.
Whilst many would see the claim * as being more difficult, or not having any chance of succeeding, until the full details surrounding the accident are looked at by a legal professional an injured employee may not know if they have a valid case. It is unwise to make an assumption that you are definitely entitled to compensation, in the same way it is unwise to assume that you are not. For all cases it is always advisable to speak to an experienced solicitor that specialises in work related injuries as they can carry out a detailed investigation into your potential claim. Whatever the circumstances of your injury, you should make initial enquiries to sound out the probability of a successful claim*.
- You cannot be dismissed for making a claim
Many people believe that their job security will be irreversibly damaged by bringing a legitimate claim * against their employer, however there are laws that prevent an employer from dismissing an employee for making a claim * against them. The Irish unfair dismissal legislation provides legal backing for this and safeguards your position as an employee – providing any future dismissal is predominantly due to a previous legal proceeding brought against an employer by an employee.
This legal safeguard is enough of a deterrent for most employers as if they broke it they would be facing a second legal claim * against them with the likelihood of paying a far greater settlement. If you were sacked following an accident at work claim, in addition to being entitled to damage payments for pain and suffering, loss of earnings, the costs of medical treatment and reasonable expenses, you would be in line for remedies provided by the unfair dismissal legislation. These remedies include full reinstatement or compensation equivalent of up to a maximum of two years’ pay.
- A claim * does not affect your future employability
Over 90% of work related injury claims * are dealt with through an assessment by the Injuries Board or via an out of court settlement, meaning that the majority of claims * are never made public. Combine this with the fact that there is no central register for work-related claims *, the knowledge of any previous legal cases against an employer lays solely with the employee, employer and their respective legal teams. A new or prospective employer would therefore not know, or have the facility to find out if you had made any claims * against any of your previous employers. This does not change if it is a successful or unsuccessful claim, or whether there was a settlement agreed – all this information is kept private unless the case is one of the few that ends up in a Court of Law.
- Co-workers will not know about your claim
In a similar manner to the information given previously, unless your legal claim * is one of the rare occasions a work related case ends up in court, the only people that will know how much compensation was received are the claimant, the employer and the legal teams. The only time it is made public is if the compensation claim * is put before a judge, in these cases the amount of compensation is declared in open court – although less than 10% of cases end up escalating past the Injuries Board.
Many cases that look to be heading to court are settled out of court with an agreed compensation payment and a confidentiality agreement from both parties. This saves the details of the case being made public and results in the injured party receiving the compensation they are entitled to. Whilst there are confidentiality agreements to keep the settlement amount secret, it is up to the individual whether they tell anyone about the compensation. This means that in all likelihood the only way co-workers would know about the amount you received in compensation is through being told by you.
The law is there to protect both workers and employers, ensuring that only cases where negligence is prevalent are brought before the legal system. Claims * are not always clear cut and it can take some investigation to uncover instances of demonstrable negligence that would result in a successful claim. If you have doubts on whether you should or should not make a claim * following an accident in the workplace, you should speak to an experienced solicitor who will be able to give you assistance in making your decision.
About the Author
Mike James is an independent legal blogger. He is currently working with McCarthy & Co, specialist personal injury solicitors who provided guidance and advice on the legal regulation aspects of this article.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.