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Why it's important to know your rights if you have an accident at work

View profile for Dan Thompson
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We spend most of our adult lives at work, and it is the responsibility of our employer to ensure our health and safety when we are in the workplace. A recent survey by Fletchers Serious Injury has shown that 27% of people who have suffered a serious injury in the last five years have done so at work, but few people make a claim for compensation from their employer.  Dan Thompson, Partner in our Personal Injury team, reviews more findings from the survey, explains the steps you should take should you have an accident at work and discusses a variety of reasons why you may be reluctant to bring a claim.

“Looking at the results of the survey, it is clear to see that while employers strive to keep their workplaces safe, accidents do still happen,” Dan begins.  “The survey not only highlights the number of people who suffer serious injuries at work, but also asked the question of whether people would be likely to bring a claim for compensation.  Worryingly, almost 20% of people would not wish to bring a claim against their employer, with 12% citing the reason that they would fear for their future career.  There are protections in place for employees to prevent discrimination against them, and employers are legally required to have liability insurance to cover them against any claim payments.  We do appreciate that these are real concerns that people will have for their future livelihoods, but they should not suffer in pain to avoid a difficult situation with their employer.”

Why do people not bring a claim for compensation following an accident?

Fear for their future career is not the only reason why individuals may not bring a claim following an accident that wasn’t their fault.  Other reasons included:

  • Believing their injury is not serious enough to warrant a claim.  People also believed that because their injury was not a visible one, for example chronic pain or cognitive impairment, they are not able to bring a claim.
  • Lack of awareness of how long they have to make a claim (in the majority of situations, you have three years from the date of the accident to bring a claim against the individual or organisation or caused your accident) or how to start making a claim.
  • Not wishing to take money off their local council or local business.

“All of these concerns could leave a person trying to cope with their injuries on their own, perhaps by limiting their activities,” continues Dan.  “This could however have even more serious complications later down the line, both physically and psychologically.  The financial compensation is only part of the story when making a claim, and can also assist you in accessing other vital support from medical experts, rehabilitation specialists and additional organisations or charities that can help rebuild your life.” 

What to do after an accident at work

Recent months have seen a decline in the number of incidents at work as less people attended their workplace during the lockdown imposed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.  As more people start to return to work, there is a concern that we will start to see that number rise, so being aware of how to act should you or a colleague have an accident is important.  Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may be required to attend hospital immediately, you may not be in control of the next steps if you are left unconscious or debilitated in another way, or you may be able to be treated on site before seeking medical attention at a later date.  Where possible, we would generally advise the following steps:

  1. Report the accident to your employer as soon as you can.
  2. When reporting the accident, you must ensure that they record it in the relevant report book, with details of how the accident happened and the injuries you have sustained.
  3. When you can, make your own notes about the accident, with specific details including the date, time and the actions leading up to it.  You should give a copy of these notes to your employer for them to hold, and if you can include photographs or video clips this would assist with any potential claim in the future.
  4. If you are not required to attend hospital immediately, visit your GP as soon as you can, even if your injuries do not seem serious or are not visible.  This is an important step to ensure not only your medical health in the short and long term, but also so there is a medical record of the accident, which may be needed in the future if you do decide to pursue a claim.

“Bringing a claim against your employer can be a challenging one, even before coronavirus, but you may be feeling even more reluctant to do so when there are many other issues for your employer to contend with,” concludes Dan.  “It’s important however that you don’t put your rights to one side; not only can it help you to recover but can also bring attention to any issues with the workplace, making it safer for your colleagues.  As we start to return to work, if you have any concerns about the safety of your workplace then you should discuss this with your employer in the first instance.  If they do not take action then you can report it to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who can inspect a workplace if they believe there is a risk of serious injury.”

If you have had an accident at work and you are considering bringing a claim for compensation, or you would like to discuss your rights and concerns about bringing a claim against your employer, you can contact Dan or a member of the Personal Injury team by calling 0800 91 92 30 or emailing


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.