If you were involved in a workplace accident and would like to seek compensation for the injuries you sustained, knowing who could be held liable is crucial. It could be that the incident was caused by a work colleague in which case your employer could be held responsible. This is referred to as “vicarious liability”. If, however, you are held partly responsible for the accident at work that left you injured, a court could rule “contributory negligence” and as such the level of accident at work compensation would be reduced accordingly.
The Definition of Vicarious Liability
If you were involved in an accident at work that left you injured and your employer could be held partly responsible or the incident was caused by another person, whether a work colleague or other staff. In a working environment, this is referred to in law as “vicarious liability” when filing a personal injury claim. An employer can be held responsible for not only the actions but the omissions of other workers and staff providing you can prove that the accident that left you injured occurred in the workplace and it happened in the last 3 years.
Vicarious liability in the workplace applies to employers who can be deemed responsible for the actions of their employees, other staff and people who are “under the control” of an employer when they are working for them which includes contractors. Should an employee cause an accident that injures a work colleague or acts in such a way that it causes a work mate harm, the employer could be held liable. With this said, the law pertaining to vicarious liability has been extended over time.
A lot of employers do not realise they could be held responsible for the actions of all their employees and other staff in the workplace. Not only does this cover workplace injuries caused by work colleagues, but it also includes the following conducts and behaviour of all employees which are listed below:
- Harassment in the workplace
- Bullying at work
- Violence in the workplace
- Discriminatory conduct
It is worth noting that you have the right to file legal action against your employer for the conduct of third parties which includes customers and clients with the proviso that the people behaving in this way are “under the control” of your employer.
How Is Vicarious Liability Proved?
To prove vicarious liability, you must show that a work colleague or other person caused an incident or behaved in a detrimental way during the course of their work and not in a personal capacity. Your employer’s liability continues even if the work colleague who caused an accident or whose behaviour was unacceptable in the workplace, no longer works for the business/company.
Your Employer’s Responsibility in the Workplace
Not only does your employer have to keep you safe from harm and injury while you are in their employment, but they must also take all possible steps to prevent “unwanted” conduct or behaviours in the workplace. Measures that should be set in place include the following:
- Equal opportunity policies should be kept up-to-date
- Anti-discrimination training should be provided to all employees and other staff
Case Study of Vicarious Liability in The Workplace
The case study below explains how an employer can be held liable for an accident at work that occurred due to the error of one employee which caused the death of another member of staff.
In 1937, an employee named Mr. English was crushed to death when a work colleague started the machinery he was working on. The dead man’s family filed a lawsuit for compensation against the employer, Wilsons & Clyde Coal Co. Ltd. However, the employer disputed the claim stating that Mr. English contributed to his death because he had not made his work colleague aware that he was present when the accident at work occurred.
The case went to the House of Lords, where the employer was deemed liable for Mr. English’s death because they failed in their duty to provide a safe working environment, ruling that the employer’s “duty was non-delegable”. In short, even though the accident at work which resulted in the death of Mr. English, was caused by another employee, the employer was deemed vicariously liable.
As previously mentioned, since the 1937 case involving the death of Mr. English, the law pertaining to vicarious liability has been expanded by way of many different accident at work claims that have gone before judges.
The Definition of Contributory Negligence in a Workplace Accident
With the introduction of the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945, contributory negligence was ruled no longer a “complete defence”. With this said, should a court rule that you contributed 100% to your injuries in a workplace accident, your accident at work claim against an employer would not be upheld.
Contributory negligence is assessed by a judge who would decide to what degree an employee may be held liable for the injuries sustained in a workplace accident. A judge would take into consideration whether an employee’s actions were reasonable when it came to taking “risks” while carrying out a job they were tasked to do. Other factors that would be taken into consideration when determining contributory negligence in the workplace are as follows:
- An employee’s age
- An employee’s work experience
With this said, less would be expected of a younger employee who does not boast much work experience than of an employee with many years experience under their belts. However, if it can be proved that an employee acted recklessly by ignoring Health and Safety regulations or working practices and procedures, a court would rule contributory negligence on their behalf, regardless of age and work experience.
It is also worth noting that all employees have a statutory duty to follow procedures and training when operating machinery or equipment in the workplace which is covered under regulation 14 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Where contributory negligence in an accident at work is an issue, it applies to cases where the employee or other person is deemed partly responsible for the incident happening and therefore, they contributed to the fact they suffered an injury or harm in the workplace. This is set out in Section 1 of the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945.
In short, if you are held partly responsible for the injuries you sustained in an accident at work, the amount of compensation you may be awarded in a successful personal injury claim against an employer, would reflect the level of liability that is attributed to you. An example being as follows:
- If a court rules that you are 25% to blame for the injuries you sustained while you were at work, the level of personal injury compensation you would be awarded, would be 25% less than if your employer was held fully responsible
How is Contributory Negligence Proved?
When it comes to proving contributory negligence, your employer would have to show that you could be held partly responsible for the accident at work that left you injured. It is up to the “defendant” (your employer) to show that contributory negligence can be argued against you. Some examples are listed below:
- You performed a potentially hazardous job when you were tired having not had enough sleep when you should have stopped or told your employer you were not fit to carry out the task
- You operated machinery or equipment and failed to follow the training you had received
However, it could be that you were not provided with adequate training to carry out a job and as such you suffered some kind of injury. In which case, your employer would be deemed negligent in their duty to provide adequate and ongoing training and as a consequence you were injured while in their employment. Other reasons why your employer could be deemed partly liable for your injuries includes the following:
- Your employer failed to provide you with the correct protective personal equipment (PPE)
- You were asked to cut corners to speed up a job you were tasked to do by your employer
A court could rule that you contributed to your injuries and thus find contributory negligence as follows:
- As a “claimant”, it could be ruled that you were anything from 1% to 99% responsible for the injuries you sustained in a workplace accident although where incidents that involve employees are concerned, contributory negligence is generally well under 50%
How is Contributory Negligence Calculated?
Contributory negligence is calculated on the “percentage” of liability you are deemed to have contributed to the injuries you sustained in the workplace. This “percentage” is then deducted from the amount of personal injury compensation you are awarded. An example being as follows:
- A judge rules you are 50% to blame for the workplace injuries you sustained, you would lose 50% of the amount of compensation you receive in a successful claim against an employer
What Can Be Included in a Claim Where Vicarious Liability of Contributory Negligence Are Attributed?
As with all personal injury claims, you can claim for general damages and special damages, bearing in mind that the amount awarded in a claim where contributory negligence is attributed would be decreased by the level of responsibility you are judged to have contributed to the workplace injuries you sustained.
- General damages are awarded for any pain and suffering you had to endure as a result of having been injured in a workplace accident. The amount you would receive would correspond to the severity of the injuries you sustained. Should your injuries be catastrophic, you would be awarded a higher level of accident at work compensation than you would if the injuries you suffered were minor
- Special damages are awarded to compensate you for all your out of pocket expenses. These have to be as a direct result of the workplace injuries you sustained. As such, all receipts for travel and medical costs as well as other relevant expenses must be provided as proof when filing an accident at work claim against your employer
All personal injury claims are unique which means the level of compensation you would receive may differ from the amount awarded to someone else who was involved in an accident at work and who suffered injuries similar to your own.
Should I Sue My Employer if I Am Injured at Work?
All employers who are involved in accidents at work are entitled to seek workplace injury compensation providing their claim meets specific criteria associated with personal injury claims. These are as follows:
- That the workplace accident occurred in the last 3 years
- That a third party or an employer could be held partly or fully responsible for the workplace injuries sustained
If you feel threatened in any way by your employer because you decide to seek compensation, you should discuss your concerns with a lawyer who specialises in accident at work claims because you may be able to sue your employer because they would be acting illegally.
Does An Employer Need to Have Liability Insurance Cover?
Employers must by law hold valid liability insurance and the amount of cover must meet the legal requirement of £5 million. The policy must be provided by a recognised insurance company and an employer should display it within the workplace. Failure to have the necessary liability insurance in place could mean that your employer would receive hefty fines which can be up to £2,500 a day.
Should you have been involved in a workplace accident and were injured, it would be your employer’s insurance provider who would deal with your case. The insurance company would enter into negotiations with a solicitor you choose to represent you in an accident at work claim whether you are partly responsible along with your employer or the injuries you sustained were caused by a work colleague with the latter falling under vicarious liability.
Do I Have Workers Rights Following an Accident at Work?
A worker’s rights are protected in the United Kingdom and this includes when involved in an workplace accident that leaves them injured, whether the injuries sustained are minor or a lot more severe. Your rights if you are injured in the workplace include the following:
- You have the right to seek compensation by filing an accident at work claim against your employer
- You have the right not to lose your job because you choose to seek compensation for the injuries you sustained while you were at work
If an employer attempts to fire you or to threaten you with redundancy because you file an accident at work claim against them, they would be acting illegally and as such, you should contact a lawyer who specialises in employment law. The reason being that the actions and behaviour of your employer could entitle you to seek further compensation from them by taking out further legal action out against them.
Does My Employer Have a Duty of Care Towards Me?
Many laws and Health and Safety Executive regulations have been set in place with an end goal being to keep all employees as safe from harm and injury as possible when they are in the workplace. Your employer must ensure that every reasonable measure has been applied to your working environment to reduce the risk of an accident occurring. Your employer’s duty of care towards all employees and people who visit the workplace include the following:
- For all employees and other staff to receive adequate and ongoing training to carry out the jobs they are tasked to do in the workplace
- For all tools, machinery and equipment in the workplace to be kept in good working order and to replace items when necessary
- That you are provided with all working procedures and practices
- That you have access to personal protective equipment which must be correctly stored, maintained and replaced when necessary
- To carry out risk assessments of a workplace on a regular basis with an end goal being to identify any hazards and dangers before setting in place all reasonable measures to reduce the risk of an accident occurring
Should your employer ignore regulations and the law which results in you being injured at work, they could be deemed liable and you may have the right to seek compensation.
What is The Time Limit To Making an Accident at Work Claim Against an Employer?
There is a statutory time limit that must be respected when filing a claim against an employer. However, this changes depending on the circumstances surrounding your injuries and when you suffered them in a workplace accident. The time limit begins as follows:
- 3 years from the time you sustained a workplace injury
- 3 years from the date of your 18th birthday should the workplace accident have happened before you were 18 years old
- 3 years of the date you were diagnosed as suffering from a medical condition you developed that can be directly associated with the injuries you sustained while you were at work
Are There Any Benefits to Working With a Solicitor on an Accident at Work Claim?
Accident at work claims can be complex if it is not clear who could be held liable for the injuries you may have suffered. This is especially true when either vicarious liability or contributory negligence are involved. As such, it is best left up to an experienced lawyer to handle your claim. Having a solicitor working with you provides many advantages as well as benefits which includes having access to an independent medical consultant and/or specialist should this be required.
The medical report they would provide would be an essential part of your claim and would be crucial when it comes to calculating the level of personal injury compensation you may receive. Other advantages of working with an accident at work lawyer includes the following:
- A firm of solicitors would offer to assess your accident at work claim in a no obligation, free consultation that can be carried out over the phone or if your case is more complex, in an arranged meeting at their offices
- Once satisfied that you have a strong case against a negligent employer whether you were partly responsible for the injuries you sustained, or the accident was caused by a work colleague, the solicitor would offer to work with you on a No Win No Fee basis
- The lawyer you work with would arrange for your injuries to be examined by an independent medical professional who would produce an expert report that would be used when calculating the amount of personal injury compensation you may be awarded
- Lawyers can access legal libraries and can use “precedents” on which they can base your claim
- A firm of solicitors who specialise in workplace injuries would abide by all pre-action protocols and would respect the 3 year statutory time limit associated with personal injury claims
- Working with a No Win No Fee lawyer would ensure that the level of personal injury compensation you receive is an acceptable amount
- Should your injuries be extremely severe and you require ongoing treatment and therapy, a solicitor would ensure that you are awarded interim payments until a final personal injury settlement is reached and they would arrange for you to receive specialist ongoing therapy
Would I Lose My Job If I File an Accident at Work Claim Against an Employer?
Your job is protected even if you decide to sue your employer for compensation following an accident at work that left you injured. If your employer chooses to make your working life difficult or they do any of the following, they would be breaking the law and you could take out further legal action against them:
- Threaten you with the sack
- Threaten you with redundancy
- Treat you unfairly or detrimentally
Before doing anything, you should contact a lawyer who would provide essential advice on the best way to proceed because you may be able to sue your employer for acting towards you in this way on top of filing an accident at work claim.
If you would like to know more about contributory negligence and how it may apply to an accident at work that left you injured, please click on the link below:
For more information on vicarious liability, please follow the link below: