When I first speak to a new client who has been injured at work it is very common for them to express concern about not having “signed an accident book” or for there not having being any witnesses to the accident.
Although both an adequate work accident report and any potential witness accounts are certainly good to have, more often than not, I can reassure my clients that not having either is not necessarily going to prevent them from making a successful claim.
It’s a common misconception that without a formal work accident report, or witness evidence, a claim will not succeed. Even CCTV footage is not used as much as many people think. Whereas CCTV footage has been very helpful on the odd occasion, it is surprising how rarely it is relied upon by either party in practice.
So without a work accident report, how do you prove an accident occurred? The answer is usually found in a client’s medical records as both your GP and hospital staff should make a note of how any workplace injury you suffered was caused.
A note from a medical practitioner in the treatment records will typically carry significant weight with a judge because it will have been prepared shortly after the accident when the injured person’s memory of events was still fresh.
If you work in a place where no accident book exists or such a book is buried at the bottom of a cupboard, you can still find evidence in the RIDDOR report. By law, your employer has to complete and send this to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) if you are absent from work for three or more days.
A RIDDOR report (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) can only be submitted by what the HSE term: “responsible persons.” These include employers, the self-employed, and people in control of work premises. RIDDOR reports must be submitted for most types of work accidents, including:
• accidents resulting in the death of any person
• accidents resulting in specified injuries to workers
• non-fatal accidents requiring hospital treatment to non-workers and
• dangerous occurrences
Clearly, one might assume that such a report may not be as accurate as a note made by the injured person themselves because the employer may have the prospect of facing a claim in mind; but a RIDDOR report can be a very helpful piece of evidence.
What about witnesses? Work colleagues are not always as helpful as you might think. An injured person will usually find that a work colleague is perfectly keen to help and rally round to help you get back on your feet following an accident, but that enthusiasm can easily wear off when they face the prospect of signing a statement prepared by a solicitor.
It’s not surprising that many people are concerned about how their employer will react to them assisting in a claim against the company. Although there are laws to protect employees against being victimised by employers, when it comes to the crunch, the witness you may have thought would be there to help may actually go quiet when asked to sign a statement for proceedings.
Our work accident experts at Slater and Gordon Lawyers will investigate your accident by speaking to witnesses and taking statements. But if they do not want to cooperate, it isn’t always a problem.
If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself injured at work, ask if you can complete the accident book yourself. Your employer may not have one or it may not be immediately available, but if that is the case, then I would recommend making a note in your diary or sending a text message or email to a partner setting out exactly what happened to you.
In addition, maybe you could make an audio or video recording using your mobile phone if you find that easier. If you find yourself waiting for hours on end in A&E then this might even help pass the time.
It’s never too early to think about instructing a work accident expert to help you. While the events are still fresh in your mind, you can speak to your lawyer who will make detailed notes and prepare a statement for you.
John Reeder is a Senior Personal Injury Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for people injured in accidents at work. Call our Personal Injury Lawyers day or night on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.