Personal Injury: An employer's guide
Claims for personal injury for accidents at work and industrial disease (both asbestos and Noise Induced Hearing Loss claims) are a fact of life. You can however reduce your exposure to potential claims, costs of those pursued as well as unmerited claims if you ensure that certain steps are taken following an accident and/or notification of a claim.
What can I do to prevent accidents?
Although not all accidents can be prevented an appropriate Health and Safety Policy needs to be in place. These should be regularly reviewed and kept up to date. Remember prevention is better than cure:
- Make sure risk assessments are carried out at least annually or more frequently if needed.
- Use the HSE website for guidance.
- Ensure that policies or recommendations that come out of undertaking risk assessments are actually put in place and properly documented.
- Let everyone know where the accident book is, ensure it is accessible and that your first aiders are up to date.
- Implement safe systems and training.
What should I do when an accident happens?
Make sure an Accident Book entry is completed. This needs to be accurate as to the accident date and time, circumstances, injury and witnesses.
Take witness statements (if appropriate) at the time. People leave companies and move on and memories fade. Securing these details and recollections at an early stage will prevent problems arising in the future and potentially being unable to defend a claim because of a lack of witnesses.
- If relevant take contemporaneous photographs of the accident location/ damage to vehicles/ machinery/ personal protective equipment.
- For accidents that result in more than seven days off work, remember the HSE must be notified within fifteen days of the accident using a RIDDOR form. This can now be done on line on the HSE website.
- Notify your insurers of the accident and potential for Personal Injury Claim in order that no issues as to indemnity arise at a later date. Most policies stipulate a time period within which a notifiable incident occurs, e.g. 3 months of accident. It is not 3 months of being notified of a claim.
- Revisit risk assessments following the accident and revise if appropriate.
- Discuss at next Health and Safety Meeting. Be aware that revised risk assessments and minutes of any meeting at which the incident was discussed will become disclosable in the event a claim is brought. They should therefore be factual and not contain opinion.
What do I do when I receive a letter of claim?
Do not ignore it!! Take prompt action and if you are insured pass the letter and any relevant documents to your insurer. If you are not insured come and see us and we can assist.
There is a Protocol for dealing with personal injury claims:
- A letters of claim is sent which has to identify the accident date and time, what happened, why they believe you were at fault (allegations of negligence), what the injuries are and what their financial losses are. The letter will also identify what documents they expect you to disclose if liability is denied. eg accident book, risk assessment, training records, RIDDOR form etc.
- The protocol provides that the letter of claim should be acknowledged within 21 days of posting
- A decision on fault has to be provided 3 months thereafter.
If a letter is ignored you may find:
- You have indemnity difficulties with your insurer and may have to deal with the claim on your own; or
- Solicitors acting for the injured party may make an Application for Pre Action Disclosure against you. This is for all documents they have identified as being relevant and which you may hold to enable them to assess the prospects of a claim. If the application is made you would have to pay their costs of doing so which can be in the region of £500- £1500.00 plus VAT.