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Injury at work: what prevents people making a claim?


This guide explores the hurdles that people face in making a claim after an injury at work, what ltypes of injury might be experienced, and where you stand legally.

There’s something of a paradox in the world of workplace injury. A clear majority of people, when surveyed, will profess to believe that accident victims should be able to claim compensation if the accident wasn’t their fault. But only a fraction of those people will actually make a claim themselves when the time comes.

According to research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the National Accident Helpline, 85% of us are in the ‘accident victims should be entitled to compensation’ camp, but just a third would actually make a claim. This discrepancy can be attributed to a number of different factors, many of them stemming from misunderstandings of the claims process.

What prevents people making a claim?

Fear of court

Many would-be claimants believe that they will have to physically attend the courtroom in order to make a claim. But this is only the case in a minority of circumstances. Around 95% of personal injury claims are settled before the courts get involved, and the guidance of an expert solicitor is on hand to guide the claimant through those that do require they attend in person.

Fear of financial hardship

The cost of a claim can give many people reason to hesitate. After all, the legal process is one that demands the input of highly skilled professionals, all of whom need to be paid. But the fact is that claims of this sort are invariably pursued on a no-win no-fee basis. The solicitor is charged with identifying whether the claim will be successful, and thus they assume all of the risk. This allows the client to pursue action without fear of financial hardship.

A related fear is that of losing one’s job as a result of making a claim. It is highly illegal for an employer to fire you because you’ve filed for compensation; those that do this expose themselves to hefty fines and legal action.

Fear of complexity

It’s true that the law can be very complex. But it’s for that reason that lawyers exist to advise us of the situation and draw our attention to any significant decisions and what their consequences might be. Get a suitable lawyer, and you won’t need to wade through jargon, as it’ll all be explained to you.

Fear of social hardship

There’s a widespread misconception that most people who make claims are just out for the money. This is often summarised in the term ‘claims culture’. But the truth of the matter is that compensation exists for a reason, and most of us, having suffered an accident, deserve to receive it. Social considerations should never be a barrier to seeking compensation, especially given that such an overwhelming proportion of people believe that accident victims deserve compensation.

Where do you stand legally with an injury at work?

According to the law, in the event of an injury at work, when there is fault, omission or negligence on the part of the employer, all expenses arising from the accident must be paid by the employer, including medical expenses.

When the employer is at fault (e.g., when the employee is not trained for the role or when the company was aware of the risk of an injury at work and did nothing), the company must repair the material damage caused by the accident, bearing expenses such as medicines, prostheses, hospital procedures, physiotherapy, transportation to these places, etc. Therefore, it is essential that the worker keep all proof of medical treatment, such as prescriptions for medications, medical certificates and invoices .

However, if the company is proven not to be at fault for the work accident, the employer is not obliged to repair the damage suffered, although the worker is still entitled to leave to recover.

If the employer is at fault and the worker does not have his medical expenses reimbursed, he must resolve his doubts with a lawyer specializing in labor law to file a lawsuit for material damages. It is also possible to apply in court for compensation for moral damages if the accident leaves psychological or physical marks (esthetic damage due to scarring or loss of limb, reduced work capacity, in addition to the pain suffered).

If the worker has been away, he cannot be dismissed after the medical discharge and consequent termination of the sickness benefit due to an injury at work. What happens very often nowadays is the work cover does not extend the accident benefit despite the worker not being able to return to work. The employer, in turn, does not want the return of the worker without full capacity for work and does not reinstate him. Thus, the social security limbo arises in which the worker remains completely helpless and needs the help of a lawyer.

What are the types of injury at work?

Typical injury at work: occurs within the company during working hours or while the worker performs a work-related function. E.g.: The worker falls from a ladder in the company or is injured when handling a machine.

Aggravating injury at work: it is not responsible for significant and effective damage, but it helps to aggravate a previous problem or illness. E.g.: The worker has mobility difficulties and, when suffering an accident at work, he/she loses his/her mobility capacity altogether.

Aggression, sabotage, malpractice injury at work: occurs when the worker is injured or put at risk by the actions of third parties. E.g.: A co-worker fails to adjust a machine that, when used by the worker, injures him.

Commuting injury at work: occurs on the way between home and work. That is, any type of accident that the employee suffers while going home or work, regardless of the means of transport. Eg: A worker is injured on his way home from work. This occurrence will count as a commuting accident.

What is the role of the employer in the event of an injury at work?

As mentioned above, the company’s first duty is to notify Social Security on the first business day following the event, through the Occupational Accident Report.

If the accident has caused the loss of the worker’s ability to perform his function, the company is obliged to reinstate him in an activity compatible with his limitations and respect the stable period of one year after his return. In case of dismissal , the company is obliged to indemnify the salaries and reflexes missing from the stable period.

When it comes to occupational accidents, having the help of a lawyer specializing in labor law is essential to clear up your doubts on the subject and guarantee your rights.

About Janine Lucas'

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