Being involved in an accident is often a confusing time – what are you meant to do, how can you look after yourself, what if your injuries have a long-term impact?
But when your accident is at work, it’s normal to experience additional feelings of embarrassment about hurting yourself in front of your colleagues and worries about the future of your job.
Accidents at work are common. Given that we spend more of our lives at work than we do anywhere else, this isn’t surprising.
And yet many people who suffer an accident at work worry about making a compensation claim against their employer, often because they’re scared that they might lose their job.
While the law is on your side if you want to make a personal injury claim against your employer, there are understandable reasons why you might not want to.
The bottom line is that making a claim against your employer is a big deal.
Even though it’s illegal for your employer to sack you for claiming against them, you might be worried that the process could end up hurting your relationship not only with your employer or manager, but also with your colleagues.
You are also likely to have natural feelings of loyalty towards your employer. After all, they gave you a job and the money to live your life – surely you could let this slide? However, if the accident was incredibly serious, or part of a longer-term issue, you may feel it’s important to move forward.
Ultimately, making a claim against your employer is a personal decision that depends on your unique situation.
This guide will explore how to respond to an accident at work in a way that’s best for your health, while keeping your options open if you decide to take legal action in the future.
Step 1: Treat your injuries
Getting your injuries treated straight away after an accident at work is the most important thing you can do.
In most cases, you should seek out your designated first aider. They can assess your injuries and offer basic treatment.
To avoid the risk of making your injuries worse, such as if you've suffered a back or neck injury, you might want to ask your colleagues to bring the first aider to you.
Once you have been assessed by your first aider, you should think about going to hospital.
While you might not think that your injuries are serious enough for a trip to an accident and emergency room, you could have symptoms that aren’t obvious to you. This is particularly true of head injuries where your decision making can be affected.
When it comes to your health, it’s better be safe than sorry.
Step 2: Report your accident to your manager
You should tell your manager about your accident as soon as possible. As the person responsible for your safety (and that of your colleague’s), your manager needs to make sure that the workplace is safe for work to continue.
You will also need to tell your manager if you’re going to hospital, so they know where you are. This will be important if there is a fire alarm where everyone needs to be accounted for.
If you’re unable to speak your manager for any reason, maybe because they’re not available at the time or because you need to get to hospital immediately, you should ask a trusted colleague to tell your manager about your accident for you.
Don’t feel embarrassed that your colleagues know you were involved in an accident – it could have happened to anyone.
Furthermore, having plenty of people knowing about your accident will help you if you decide to make a personal injury claim as it will establish that your accident happened at work, and that there were witnesses/people aware of the situation.
Step 3: Make a record of the accident
After telling your manager about your accident, you should make a record of it yourself.
Under health and safety regulations known as RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations), all workplaces are required to have an ‘accident book’, also known as an ‘incident book’, for employees to report accidents and near-misses.
The purpose of reporting your accident in the accident book, from your point of view, is to set out in your own words what happened.
While you will have given your manager a report of what happened, making your own written report helps to clear up any inconsistencies there might be between your accounts.
This accident book should be easily accessible but don’t worry if your company doesn’t have one or if you can’t find it – sending a formal written statement or email to your employer will have the same effect.
If you need immediate medical treatment, you should prioritise treating your injuries over making an accident report. You can make a report once you have been treated.
Sometimes, it will be the responsibility of your first aider to make a record of your accident in the incident book. In this case, you should check to see if the record has been made in the book as soon as possible.
Step 4: Start collecting evidence of your accident
Soon after your accident, you should start collecting evidence of what happened.
Having evidence of your accident is a good way of protecting yourself from potential accusations made against you by your employer or by others to suggest that the accident was your fault.
Evidence of your accident will also be essential if you decide to make a personal injury claim in the future.
Depending on your injuries, however, collecting evidence of your accident might be easier said than done.
Ideally, you’ll want to take photos and videos of the scene of your accident straight after it happens. That way, you can be sure that nothing is tampered with that could damage your case.
For instance, if your accident was caused by a defective ladder, your employer is likely to replace it quickly. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your employer is trying to damage your case – after all, replacing the ladder will help to prevent future accidents – but it could have the same damaging effect on your personal injury claim, nonetheless.
While collecting the evidence yourself would be ideal, the reality is that, because of your injuries, you might be unable to.
If you’re unable to do it yourself, asking a trusted colleague to do it for you is the next best thing.
Useful pieces of evidence for your claim could include:
Photos of the scene of your accident
Any CCTV footage of your accident
Any statements from colleagues and others who witnessed your accident
Photos of your injuries
Step 5: Get as much medical attention as you think you need
Getting immediate medical attention should be your priority after an accident at work. But it shouldn’t stop there.
After your initial visit to hospital, it’s important that you continue to see your GP about your injuries as often as you think you need to.
While sitting in waiting rooms is probably the last thing you feel like doing in the weeks and months following an accident at work, it will help you in the long run if you do decide to make a personal injury claim.
This is because you will get more compensation if your injuries are severe and have required ongoing treatment. To prove this, however, you’ll need to have evidence of it on your medical record.
Unfortunately, many people end up missing out on compensation that they’re entitled to because they don’t get the medical attention that their injuries require. This means that they’re unable to prove that their long-term injuries were caused by their workplace accident.
The best thing you can do is visit you GP as often as your body is telling you to. This way, you have a record of your injuries from straight after your accident to any follow-up treatment you may have needed to demonstrate the long-term impact of your injuries.
So, if you notice any symptoms, don’t just shrug them off – see your GP.
Step 6: Keep track of your financial losses
You should keep track of any financial losses caused by your workplace accident.
This is particularly important if your injuries prevent you from working for a long period of time and you’re not getting paid.
Making a personal injury claim can help you to recover money you would have earned through a type of compensation called ‘special damages’.
To successfully claim for special damages, you will need to provide evidence of the financial losses that you’re claiming for.
If you’re unable to work for more than seven days, you can prove your claim for lost earnings by getting a doctor’s note – a Statement of Fitness for Work – that says your injuries make it impossible for you to do your job.
Try to keep track of any spending you do in relation to your injuries, ideally in the form of receipts and bank transfers.
Expenses you can claim for as part of special damages include:
Any medical care, treatment, travel, or accommodation costs
Any modifications you have made (or may need to make) to your home or car
Any rehabilitation programmes prescribed to you by a medical professional
Any other daily expenses caused by your injuries
Learn more about what damages you can claim for in our guide: How is personal injury compensation calculated?
Step 7: Speak to a personal injury solicitor
Having an accident at work is often a confusing experience.
On top of the shock of the accident and the pain of your injuries, you might wonder what went wrong that allowed the accident to happen and whether you could have done anything to prevent it.
To make the situation even more stressful, you might be offered an out of court settlement by your employer’s insurance company, on the condition that you can’t make a claim against your employer in the future.
When you have lost money from time off work and other expenses caused by your accident, it can be difficult to know whether you should accept this offer, or if it’s even reasonable.
To help you through this confusing time, you might want to consider speaking to a personal injury solicitor.
They can tell you if you have an accident at work personal injury case and give you an idea of how much compensation you might be owed. And if you are offered an out of court settlement, they can help you to consider whether accepting the offer might be the best way of getting closure.
Often personal injury lawyers work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, so you don’t have to worry about further expense on top of any financial losses through your accident.
If you have been injured in a workplace accident that wasn’t your fault, you can find solicitors to offer advice and guidance on next steps on The Law Superstore with our quick quote form.