You may have been injured in a workplace accident caused by the error or negligence of a colleague. It could be that your fellow employee hit you with a forklift they were operating or it could be that a heavier item that was incorrectly stacked by a work colleague fell and crushed you. You may be wondering whether you could file for compensation for the injuries you sustained and who could be held liable. The answer is that providing you can prove you were injured in an accident at work that was caused by a colleague, your employer may be held responsible which is referred to in law as vicarious liability.
What Does Vicarious Liability Mean?
In the UK, the law holds employers liable for accidents in the workplace that cause an employee to sustain harm or injury. This includes when an workplace incident is caused by the negligence or error of a fellow employee. An Employer is responsible for the actions of all their employees which includes when an employee is responsible for a workplace accident that leaves another employee injured.
The law states that an employer has a duty of care to ensure that work colleagues are able to carry out their jobs competently. That all employees are correctly trained and are provided with equipment, tools and machinery that is in good working order and regularly maintained. A work environment must also be safe for all employees to work in. As such, if you are injured in an accident at work that was caused by another employee, your employer could be held responsible for your work colleagues error, negligence or actions because they would be vicariously liable had they failed in their duty to keep the workplace safe.
Would My Accident at Work Claim Be Valid If Caused By a Work Colleague?
As previously mentioned, providing you can provide adequate evidence that your injuries were caused by a work colleague, you may be entitled to file for compensation from your employer for the loss of amenity, pain as well as suffering you endured. It may feel like a hard thing to do, especially if a fellow employee caused your injuries, but you have the right to receive a level of compensation to suit the injuries you sustained at work.
What are My Workers Rights Following an Accident at Work Caused By a Work Colleague?
Your worker’s rights remain the same even if an accident at work that caused you to be injured was due to the negligence of a fellow employee. Worker’s rights are protected in the UK and include the following:
- That your job remains safe if you sue an employer for compensation when you have been injured while in their employment – even if the incident was caused by a work colleague
- That you cannot be prevented from filing an accident at work claim against your employer
If your employer chooses to make your working life hard and they threaten you in any way which includes with the sack or redundancy, they would be acting unlawfully and you could be entitled to seek further compensation from them by filing more legal action against them.
What Are My Employer’s Responsibilities in the Workplace?
As an employee, you are protected in the UK with many laws and legislation in place to ensure that this is so. Should an employer not adhere to the law regarding your rights and you are harmed or injured at work, they could be held negligent in their duty towards you. Your employer must adhere to the following to ensure that a working environment is as safe as “reasonably possible” for you to carry out the jobs you and your work colleagues are tasked to do:
- To ensure that all staff are correctly trained to carry out the jobs they are tasked to do and are regularly given ongoing training
- To ensure that all tools, machinery and other equipment is correctly maintained in good working order to reduce the risk of harm and injury from occurring in a working environment whether this is onsite or offsite
- To ensure that regular risk assessments are carried out in a workplace whether onsite or offsite and to put in place measures to reduce the risk of injury and harm from occurring
- To make sure that all staff and workers are provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and to ensure that the equipment is in good condition and correctly stored when not in use
- To ensure that all staff and employees are provided with detailed working practices and procedures and to make sure that all workers adhere to them
What is the Time Limit to Filing an Accident at Work Claim?
There is a strict 3 year statutory time limit that must be adhered to if you are considering filing an accident at work claim against your employer because a work colleague caused an incident that left you injured. Should you fail to abide by the statutory time limit, your case may end up being “time-barred” which means that even though you have all the evidence required to prove your claim, you would not be able to seek compensation for the injuries you sustained at work through the negligence of a fellow employee.
With this said, the 3 year deadline begins at different times depending on the circumstance surrounding your case which are detailed below:
- The deadline to filing a claim begins 3 years from the date an employee was injured in the workplace through the error of a work colleague
- 3 years from the date the injured party may have been diagnosed as suffering from a medical issue that can be linked to the workplace accident cause by a fellow employee
- Should the workplace accident have been fatal, the 3 year statutory time limit begins from the date of the injured worker’s death
- Should the workplace accident have occurred before a person has turned 18 years of age, the statutory 3 year time limit starts at their 18th birthday
The statutory time limit of 3 years may seem like long enough to claim compensation for injuries you sustained through no fault of your work in the workplace but gathering all the information and evidence required to prove your case is time consuming. There are medical reports and other essential evidence pertaining to your workplace accident that must meet specific criteria for a personal injury claim to be valid. On top of this, should your employer choose to deny liability, your case may be a lot more complex than if they accepted responsibility for the injuries you sustained through the negligence of a work colleague.
What Can Be Included in a Claim For Injuries Sustained Through Negligence of a Work Colleague?
As with all work-related personal injury claims, you would be allowed to claim damages and losses you incurred as a direct result of the injuries you sustained. The compensation you may be awarded would be broken down into two specific categories which are detailed as follows:
- General damages are awarded to compensate injured parties for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity they were put through because of an injury sustained through no fault of their own in the workplace. As such, the amount of accident at work compensation you may be awarded would depend on the extent of the injuries you suffered and how these injuries impact your overall life and well-being as well as your ability to work again
- Special damages are awarded to compensate an injured party for all their expenses and other costs incurred as a direct result of having been injured in the workplace through the negligence of a third party. As such, the amount of compensation you may receive in “special damages” is a lot easier to calculate as they are based on “actual” costs you incurred because of the injuries you sustained. The losses you can claim would therefore be for all your travel and medical expenses as well as all other costs you had to pay out because your sustained a workplace injury through no fault of your own
Should I Sue My Employer For an Injury Caused By a Work Colleague?
Having been injured in the workplace, you may be off work for a while. If you’re the injuries you sustained through the negligence of a fellow worker are severe, you may not be able to return to the workplace for weeks or even months. Should your injuries have been catastrophic, they may prevent you from doing any work ever again. On top of this, your worker’s rights entitle you to seek compensation for injuries sustained in the workplace and to sue an employer by filing an accident at work claim against them even if the incident was caused by a work colleague.
Not being able to work whether for a short time, longer period of time or ever again, would mean not being able to bring in your normal wage. You would be put under tremendous financial stress on top of having to deal with the injuries you sustained and your recovery. Seeking compensation by filing an accident at work claim, would alleviate all the stress and worry of how you would pay your monthly outgoings. It is also worth noting that all employers are legally required to have liability insurance to cover such eventualities.
When you sue your employer for injuries sustained through the negligence of a work colleague, it is the insurer who deals with your claim from the outset and who would negotiate any compensation you may be awarded in a successful work-related personal injury claim against your employer. In short, it would not be your employer who settles your claim, but their liability insurance provider whether your case goes to court because your employer denies responsibility or accepts liability, in which instance, the insurance company would usually offer an “out of court settlement”.
It is worth noting that the first “out of court” settlement that an insurance provider may offer, should not be automatically accepted. The reason being that an experienced solicitor would work hard to get the insurer to raise the amount they first offer so that it more in line with the workplace injuries you sustained.
Can My Employer Fire Me For Filing a Claim?
If you are sacked because you filed an accident at work claim against your employer, they would have been acting unlawfully and would have breached your “worker’s rights”. As such, you should discuss your circumstances with a solicitor who specialises in employment law. You may be entitled to take further legal action out against your employer for having behaved in this manner towards you.
Are There Any Benefits to Working With a Solicitor on a Claim?
A solicitor has the legal expertise that is required to represent clients on personal injury claims. They have years of experience in dealing liability insurance providers and should your claim be disputed and therefore have to go through the courts, a solicitor understands all the legal jargon that a court hearing entails. Many accident at work claims fail because legal pitfalls that must be negotiated are unknown by the layman.
This can result in a claim being thrown out from the outset even when there is plenty of evidence that a workplace accident was caused by the negligence or error on the part of a work colleague. The many benefits and advantages an accident at work solicitor offers when filing a claim against an employer because of an injury sustained while at work, includes the following:
- A solicitor would offer you a free consultation so they can determine whether a work colleague was responsible for the injuries you sustained and therefore, your employer could be deemed liable
- You would be under no obligation to continue with your accident at work claim, should you not wish to, following the free consultation you are offered by a solicitor who would work with you on a No Win No Fee basis
- Lawyers have the right to access legal libraries when they need to which they can reference when researching your accident at work claim
- A lawyer would be able to tell you at the first opportunity of the amount of accident at work compensation you may receive in a successful claim
- A lawyer knows all about the “pre-action protocols” that should be adhered to and this alone can help speed up the legal process should a liability insurance provider drag their heels when replying to correspondence relating to your claim
- An accident at work solicitor respects the statutory time limit of 3 years that is associated with all personal injury claims which ensures that you do not run out of time
- An experienced lawyer would negotiate interim payments for you until a final settlement can be reached should your case take longer than usual to reach a conclusion
- A solicitor would work hard to ensure that you are awarded a level of accident at work compensation that is fair and acceptable
- A solicitor would ensure that you are seen by an independent medical professional whose report would be used as the basis to calculate the level of general damages you may receive in a successful claim
- A solicitor would ensure that you are provided with ongoing treatment should your injuries be such that you need long-term medical care and this would be included in the amount of compensation you may be awarded
Would a Solicitor Work on My Negligence Case On a No Win No Fee Basis?
As previously touched upon, once an accident at work lawyer determines that a work colleague caused the accident that left you injured and therefore, your employer could be held responsible for the injuries you sustained, they would typically offer to represent you without requesting you pay them a retainer otherwise known as an upfront fee. When signing a No Win No Fee agreement, there would be no ongoing fees to find as your claim progresses either.
Once the Conditional Fee Agreement is signed by both parties, being you and the solicitor who represents you, it allows the lawyer to begin investigations into your claim against your employer. This would entail writing an official letter to your employer detailing the points in your accident at work claim against them. The lawyer would also gather all the evidence that is required to prove and strengthen your claim. Should your employer deny liability, the solicitor who represents you would begin investigating whether your case would be upheld by a judge in court or whether your employer has a stronger case than you.
In this instance, your solicitor may recommend that you drop your claim, bearing in mind that there would nothing to pay for the legal advice and representation you received because you entered into a Conditional Fee Agreement with the solicitor. However, should the solicitor feel that your claim is strong and would therefore succeed in court, they would typically recommend filing a lawsuit against your employer. This may prompt an employer to admit liability in which case their liability insurer may offer an “out of court” settlement.
The reason being that should you win your accident at work claim through the courts, the insurer would not only have to pay their own court costs but your court costs too. It is worth noting that 95% of all personal injury claims that are made, are settled by insurance providers prior to them going before a judge. In short, providing you have enough evidence that your accident at work injuries were caused by a work colleague, a solicitor would work hard to ensure that your employer accepts responsibility and that you receive a level of personal injury compensation that is fair and acceptable.
If you would like more information on the expenses and benefits you may be entitled to receive following an accident at work that left you injured and unable to work, please follow the link below:
To find out more about what constitutes vicarious liability, the following link to the ACAS website provides essential reading on the topic:
If you would like to know more about pre-action protocols, please follow the link below: