Accidents At Work; When Can Employee Take A Claim?

If you are injured at work, you may be entitled to take a claim. Work -injuries can frequently be serious as work frequently involves working with heavy machinery. Indeed, even where it does not, for example where you are doing reasonably light repetitive work, quite severe repetitive strain type injury can result.

If you are injured in an accident at work, you would normally take a case against your Employer, as the Employer is usually in control of the workplace. When can I succeed? The answer is generally that you must show that the Employer is negligent, ie., that the Employer did not take reasonable care for your safety.

To succeed in your claim, you must show that the Employer has not taken reasonable care as regards your safety and that your accident resulted from this lack of care. Usually, you would show that the Employer was aware of a particular risk/danger (or should have been aware of it) and did not remove this risk. So, for example, if you have complained to your Employer of soreness/illness from using a particular type of machine and your Employer does not take reasonable case so as to eliminate this real danger, then you might be in a good position to take a case. In these type of situations, Employers can have tests carried out so as to show that particular work practices are safe. Another example would be, where a practice has developed allowing spillages to be omitted onto the floor (thus causing a slippy/dangerous floor). If an Employer is aware of this tendency and does not eliminate it, then you are likely to have a good claim against your Employer if your injury results from such a spillage.

In certain situations, you are entitled to sue your Employer even if the Employer has taken reasonable care. You can do this where you can show that a particular Statute has been breached (for example, if you are injured to defective equipment supplied by an Employer, you are likely to have a good case).

It might also be appropriate for a case to be taken against another Party, for example, the Supplier/Manufacturer of the Defective Equipment (in any event the Employer would probably try to pass liability to this Third Party). In these situation, it is important to discuss what exactly occurred, why it occurred, what exactly was the defect so as to ensure that you sue all relevant parties in time.

Slipping or Tripping Accidents

When can I succeed?. If I trip or slip in a shop (or other premises) and suffer an injury, when can I take a claim? Contrary to some misimpressions, these accident can result in quite severe and long-lasting injuries.

The answer is that, like in most other areas of Law, you must show that the operation/controller of the premises was negligent, i.e, that reasonable standards of safety were not complied with. It is not enough to show that, for example, you slipped on water in a public library or other premises; the owner of the shop can defend the claim by showing that he/she had in place a reasonably good system of cleaning, that the floors had a good slip-resistance etc.

The following are some rules of thumb to follow so as to bolster your case (there rules apply also to many other types of accidents):-

  • Report accident immediately (do not quietly/stoically walk away and hope that your injury will subside).
  • As best you can (given that you are injured) take note of the surrounding circumstances; where have I fallen?; is it close to a particular /notable landmark?
  • Are my clothes soiled/wet after my fa? (this will point to wet/dirty floor).
  • Is there debris on the floor?
  • Try to discover what caused the fall: for example, did I fall close to vegetable shelf (are their leaves on the floor?).
  • Is the area lit up; poor lighting causes many accidents (some stores have a practice of diming their lights at certain times so as to reduce energy costs;
  • Try to locate Witnesses; do not be afraid to ask for names and phone numbers of passers-by.
  • Take Photos of the scene, if you can;
  • Go to your G.P or Hospital immediately, if you are injured;
  • As soon as you can, write down the details of the accident ; (many cases are lost because the injured person does not recollect exactly what happened and so a Judge might not be convinced, (frequently, the case might not be heard for some considerable time later);
  • Preserve your shoes – so as to show that your shoes had good traction etc.

If you are injured on a footpath/road (for example resulting from a manhole which is lower than the rest of the path), the Law is a little different but you might also have a case.

Berwick Solicitors have represented victims of accidents for over 25 years: Feel free to contact us on 091 567545 or at info@berwick.ie for a brief discussion or inquiry.

Am I partly to blame for my injury or accident?

Even though you can establish that another person is mainly responsible for an accident (which caused injury to you), you might still be found to be partly responsible. If this happens, the judge will reduce the amount of an award that you would otherwise get.

It is often difficult to say whether you are partly responsible. In a case of Noeleen Coffey -V- John Joseph Kavanagh (a case recently heard in the High Court), Ms. Coffey suffered a fractured wrist at work, as a result of tripping over a box. She worked in a shop in Camden Street in Dublin. Her employer argued that Ms Coffey was responsible herself for what occurred; that she had put the box on the floor herself or, at least, should have moved it. Ms. Coffey maintained that, when she returned to work after lunch (on the day of the accident), her work area was cluttered with boxes. She began to tidy the boxes and argued that she was doing her best to correct the clutter. The court said that there was a shortage of space in the work-area; that the area was frequently cluttered with articles. The court also found that the Employer had not carried out a risk-assessment (which would mean that the employer is at fault in allowing standards to slip). The question arose, though, as to whether she should have looked out and avoided the box? Also, she was a manager and was obliged to keep the area tidy. She knew of the clutter in the area and should have avoided it. She stated that she had begun to tidy up and that the accident occurred after that. In this case, the court found that she was 25% responsible for the accident and, accordingly, reduced the amount of her award by this percentage (you will note that she won her case to the extent of 75%).

The law imposes the main responsibility on an employer to ensure that a work-place is tidy/safe. However, the employee has also to take care and this duty on the employee will be higher if he/she is in the position of responsibility.

Berwick Solicitors has represented victims of accidents for over 25 years: Feel free to contact us on 091 567545 or at info@berwick.ie for a brief discussion or inquiry.

Dog Bites and the Law

Owning a dog can be a very rewarding experience. However dog owners should be
careful that their adorable pooch is covered by their home insurance.

Unfortunately there has been a number of high profile incident in recent months where
dogs have bitten children causing serious injuries and sometimes even death.

In the US, dog bites accounted for more than one-third of home insurance claims paid in
2011 according to USA Today. It is a worrying trend that may catch on here in Ireland.

The Control of Dogs Act 1986 is the principal legislation in Ireland governing the liability of
owners for their dogs. It imposes a strict liability on dog owners where the offending dog
causes damage to a person or to livestock. Strict liability means that the dog owner will
always be held responsible even where the dog had never bitten a person before.

We advise that all dog owners check with their home insurance provider that their dog is covered
by their home insurance. We also advises that dog owners should also ensure that their
dog is not allowed out unaccompanied or to be unsupervised in the presence of small
children because they face criminal prosecution if their dog causes harm to any person.

“Please remember that no matter how obedient and gentle your dog is, he/she is still an
animal and can be unpredictable if frightened or harassed, and it is a dog’s natural
defence mechanism to snap or bite.”

To quote USA Today’s report “the average cost of dog bite claims in the US was $ 29,396
in 2011”. Here in Ireland we are already seeing an increase in claims due to the fact that
more people own dogs, they live closer to one another and there appears to be a lax
control of dogs which allows them to come in to contact with small children, which can
have awful consequences.

For further information or to arrange a consultation, please contact Berwick Solicitors:
on +353 (0)91 567 545 or at info@berwick.ie.