Category Archives: Personal injury

How have personal injury claims been impacted by Covid?

The impact of the novel coronavirus has been felt in just about every part of the economy. Among the most obvious implications have been medical ones. We’ve all been paying close attention to the number of reported cases and hospitalisations due to Covid-19.

Statistics elsewhere, on the other hand, might indicate a silver lining or two. For example, the number of personal injury claims have hit an eight-year low.

It might seem obvious that claims are in sharp decline because fewer people are in work, and thus they’re instead having their accidents at home. However, the statistics released by the Ministry of Justice in March describe a fall to just under twenty-seven thousand personal injury claims in the last few months of the previous year – in other words, before anyone had heard of Covid-19.

According to the MoJ, this decline is largely due to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which effectively made litigation more affordable for those who might not otherwise have considered it.

How might Covid impact my claim?

The damages awarded in personal injury claim serve two purposes. First, there’s a sum to compensate for any financial loss incurred as a result of the injury. Second, there’s a sum to offset the pain and suffering that the ordeal might have inflicted.

If you’ve been injured during the pandemic, then your recovery might have been complicated by the lockdown restrictions. If this is the case, then you’ll want to ensure that you’re working alongside a personal injury solicitor who understands the current difficult circumstances. For example, the people who might otherwise have looked after you might have to isolate socially themselves. The process of collecting medication might have become extremely difficult. Moreover, the psychological impact of having to recover from an injury might have been further complicated by the loneliness of enforced lockdown.

What changes are on the horizon?

The future is difficult to predict, because the medical facts on the ground are uncertain. However, changes to the law due to come into force next year thanks to the Civil Liability Act 2018, which will raise the threshold for the case to be taken beyond the small claims court. For road accidents, the estimated damages will need to exceed £5,000. For other incidents, the figure is £2,000.

At present, only very minor injuries are lumped into the ‘small claims’ category. Once the changes come into effect, even those suffering from broken bones and permanent scarring might find themselves unable to secure a no-win-no-fee solicitor.

Neck injury and the resulting impact

A neck injury is one of the most serious and traumatic injuries it’s possible to suffer. It can result in life-changing or long-term damage.

Neck injuries are different to the pain or discomfort you might experience as a result of tension – such as from sitting in a certain position for too long. Acute neck injuries can cause real damage to the spine and surrounding tissue.

If you’ve hurt your neck after being involved in a personal injury, you could end up suffering serious consequences.

Types of neck injury

The neck is made up of a number of different bones, muscles and ligaments. The cervical spine is located at the back of your neck and is made up of seven vertebrae, which are separated by discs.

Whiplash is likely the most widely known type of neck injury. It mainly affects the soft tissue in the neck and results in symptoms including neck pain and stiffness, headaches and muscle spasms.

You might also find yourself suffering from nerve damage or slipped or damaged discs – often due to heavy lifting, pressure on the neck or being struck by a falling object. But the most severe form of neck injury can be a broken or dislocated neck. This can cause your vertebrae to crack or fracture, which can then result in paralysis or even death.

Causes of neck injury

Among the most common causes of neck injuries are car accidents. When you are involved in a car crash, you can find your body remains stationary because of your seatbelt, while your head snaps forward with the momentum, causing your neck to be damaged.

Also responsible for a number of neck injuries are falls, usually from a height. Falling objects can also cause significant injuries.

Manual handling carried out incorrectly can result in back pain, as well as neck injuries, while engaging in certain sports can also pose a risk of injury to the neck. Contact sports such as rugby and boxing and activities like horse riding can be particularly dangerous when it comes to neck injuries.

The impact of a neck injury

Among the most serious and lasting impacts of a neck injury is paralysis. Suddenly being unable to control your own body when you previously could is a hugely traumatic experience for anyone.

The inability to control your bladder or bowel can also end up being a lifelong consequence of a neck injury. This can have a huge impact on your quality of life and can take a significant mental and emotional toll.

The link between neck pain and anxiety and depression has been pointed out by a number of studies, including by Moroccan researchers published in the Pan African Medical Journal and US scientists published in Pain Medicine.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has also said that adjusting to a spinal cord injury is a lifelong process. Losing independence, dealing with changing emotional reactions and adapting to activities like work and family life can be challenging to victims of neck injuries.

It’s for that reason that support is generally advised in cases of severe neck and spinal injury. Specialist clinicians will be able to offer advice and guidance on how to adapt to life after suffering from a neck injury.

Image copyright: Motortion Films

Fatalities at work fall, but how can accidents be avoided?

According to work accident specialists First4Lawyers, a total of 111 workers died in the UK last year in an accident at work, according to the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The figures represent a decrease of 38 from the previous year and is the lowest annual number on record. The HSE has stressed that the pandemic may have skewed the figures as the vast majority of people were either working from home or furloughed for the final two months of the year.

What were the most dangerous sectors to work in?

The construction industry came out top with a total of 40 deaths last year, up from 30 the previous year. A total of 20 workers in the agricultural, forestry and fishing sector lost their lives in accidents at work, down from 32 on the previous year, while 15 died in the manufacturing sector – down from 26 the previous year.

In terms of risk of injury, the waste and recycling and the agricultural, forestry and fishing sectors were the worst culprits. Shockingly the rate of injury in these sectors was 18 times higher than the average sector.

The most common cause of a fatal accident was falling from height, with 29 deaths. This was followed by being struck by a moving vehicle with 20 deaths, being struck by a moving object with 18 deaths, being trapped by something collapsing or overturning with 15 deaths and having contact with moving machinery accounting for 11 deaths.

The figures show that 97% of those who died were men.

How can accidents at work be avoided?

As the HSE says nobody should be killed or hurt because of the work they do. While it is impossible to avoid all accidents, it is possible to minimise the risk of them in the workplace. Things that employers can do to avoid accidents include:

  • Give proper training to employees for their job and the equipment they use.
  • Keep vehicles maintained.
  • Provide proper equipment needed for the job, whether this be safety harnesses or goggles.
  • Keep the workplace tidy and uncluttered to avoid falls or things falling from height.
  • Make sure employees don’t take shortcuts, such as not using a harness or other safety equipment.
  • Ensure dangers and accidents are reported.
  • Remind employees of proper safety procedures with signs in noticeable places.

While the number of workplace fatalities has fallen by half in the past 20 years, employers have a duty to get this figure down and employees have a duty to follow procedures and act responsibly. Only then will the number of accidents at work fall.

Lessons learned from remote personal injury hearings in Ireland

COVID-19 has moved a lot of things formerly that were formerly conducted in person onto the internet. While many transitional moves to the web were inevitable, it greatly accelerated the process. In Ireland, courts have been developing technology to facilitate hearings by making them remote. This process has been significantly changed by the pandemic and has made remote hearings an imperative in the last few weeks.

The infrastructure was under development to facilitate remote hearings, which was confirmed by the Chief Justice and the Presidents of all Jurisdictions of the Courts, who confirmed that this technology was in place in April. Mock trials will be conducted to determine the viability of remote courtrooms. The first remote hearing was conducted on April 20th for a case-management hearing related to a number of cases. In a statement to the Supreme Court, Justice Frank Clarke outline mock trials that have been conducted, which indicates that the courts are ready to gradually move towards conducting trials virtually.

How does it work?

Remote court hearings operate by using a video streaming app that enables the people involved in the court proceedings attending a court date online. Justice Frank Clarke suggested that issuing a statement of case that would be implemented prior to remote trials. Over the case some 10 to 14 days before the hearing, it will set out the court’s understanding of the facts. All of the relevant findings of the courts that deal with the case, the issues that arise, and where the court is unclear on any of these matters are deliberated beforehand.

While many hope that new clarity will come from preparing in advance and reduce the need for interventions from the court, this most likely means that substantive appeals will not go ahead for a few weeks to allow for the statements to be prepared. This delay is temporary, however. When the courts catch up and complete the transition process, it will likely move faster than ever.

How this will impact personal injury hearings

Since personal injuries are physical, it remains to be seen how these examinations of injuries will be dealt with in remote court. Still the first hearing for a personal injury was conducted remotely in April. The High Court took an ongoing case relating to an alleged cancer diagnosis. In this case, Justice Hyland presided over Court 29, which is a part of the Four Courts. The judge heard submissions from counsel on both sides of the case remotely. They spoke with Siobhan Freeney over a video link in the courtroom.

While this case was opened in February, the hearing lasted 12 days before the High Court. Siobhan Freeney claims that her mammogram taken in 2015 was read incorrectly. While Freeney alleges that the mammogram should have been studied more closely for signs of cancer, the clinic failed to do so. She also says that she should have been referred to someone for further assessment and whatever necessary treatment she needs for cancer.

Freeney was diagnosed with cancer six months after the mammogram. They found cancer in Freeney’s right breast. She claims that she should have been diagnosed earlier. She alleges that she was misdiagnosed, with an alleged failure to ensure any proper treatment. Her earlier claims were denied.

This reveals that past failures of the court can be looked at again and corrected. According to McGinley Law, a firm that focuses on personal injury claims, the time-saving ability or virtual and remote court proceedings. With more time, the courts can look at cases more thoroughly. However, it remains to be seen whether the lack of physical interaction will lead to people faking injuries in order to win a court case and obtain a settlement.

So much is changing in the wake of COVID-19. Many areas of life will be facilitated by making the inevitable move to remote and virtual operations, whether it’s in courtrooms, meetings, interviews, or something else. Other areas are hindered by it. People are out of work and have more time on their hands. This free time can be implemented in positive, encouraging ways while pursuing a safe, just, and productive transition into a world after Coronavirus. Personal injury court cases are just one of the areas that can be improved by remote hearings while walking the fine line that this new normal has created.

Accidents at work when at home, who is liable?

The coronavirus crisis has seen more and more of us are working from home. This raises the interesting question of what happens if you have an accident at work while at home, what duties do employers have and who would be liable if you have an accident?

What are an employer’s duties?

Employers have a duty to ensure their employees’ health and safety is protected. This applies to whether you are working on a building site, in the office or at home. However, when working from home your employer’s responsibility would be limited due to the lack of control they have over your home.

The level of your employer’s duty would largely depend on the type of work you are carrying out. An employer would have to carry out a risk assessment and consider whether the type of work carried out would be suitable to be carried out at home, such as is there enough space and would there be a risk of an employee tripping over? The employer also has a duty to provide the correct equipment that is in good working order and ensure it is maintained.

What about an employee’s duties?

People working at home should also carry out their own assessment of their home. All employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and must report any employment-related hazards to their employer. Your employer should inform you of their health and safety policies and then it is incumbent on you to ensure those policies are applied correctly.

If you have an accident at work whilst working from home would an employer be liable?

As you have control over your home you would have a large degree of responsibility to look after your own safety. The main thing that employers are responsible in this scenario is to ensure that you have the tools and skills to do the job and that they maintain that equipment.

Consequently, if you were to suffer an accident at home then your employer would probably only be liable if they did not give the proper training or equipment provided was not maintained properly. The employer would only generally be responsible if the accident was due to their negligence meaning that they failed to take reasonable care for your safety.

How to cope with a brain injury

Suffering a brain injury can be one of the most debilitating things that can happen to a person, whether this be because of an accident, blow to the head or medical negligence. Brain injuries can happen at any stage of your life and can have a devastating impact on yourself or those who may have to care for you. We spoke to leading medical negligence legal firm First4Lawyers about what should you do if you have suffered a brain injury?

Seek support

There are a host of organisations that offer support to people who have suffered brain injuries or to the people who support sufferers. Charities like Headway and the Brain Injury Trust offer invaluable support to you and your family. In addition, you should ask your doctor or neurological team what therapies are available and would be suitable for yourself. It is important to talk about what you are going through with friends and family even if you are struggling to come up with the rights words. Make sure they know if you are struggling to communicate.

Adopt strategies to cope

If you suffer a brain injury you may find that you have developed memory problems. It can make a real difference if you adopt simple adaptations to your home. For example, you could label kitchen cupboards to help you remember what is in each one. Following a daily routine can help as well as setting reminders on your phone for daily events. It is not unusual for people who have suffered brain injuries to get frustrated and lose their temper. If you do, try find a technique to calm you down, such as removing yourself from the situation and going into another room.

Make sure your employer knows

Your employer has a duty to support you if you have suffered a brain injury. If they aren’t aware of what has happened to you then they may think you are slacking or a troublemaker. It’s a good idea to seek the advice of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or ACAS to find out what reasonable adjustments can be made for you that may help you cope.

Be realistic about what you can achieve

Fatigue is common after a person suffers a brain injury and you may find that you aren’t able to do as much as you did beforehand. As a result, set achievable targets for each day and ensure you have time in your schedule to relax. Don’t be hard on yourself if you get tired more easily than before your injury and if you need to have a sleep during the day, have one.

Additionally, if you suffered your brain injury as a result of medical negligence you may want to consult a specialist lawyer as you might be entitled to compensation.

While suffering a brain injury can be extremely difficult to deal with, if you follow these steps it will help you cope.

 

 

 

 

Making a personal injury claim during the pandemic

Suffering a life-changing injury can be devastating for the individual involved and those around them. Many situations, where the victim suffered their injury as result of somebody else’s negligence, will often result in them making a personal injury claim. This can be to cover the victim’s loss of earnings, compensate for the injury suffered and ensure they get the care they need in the future.

But with the coronavirus pandemic still affecting all of our lives there were fears that personal injury claims may not progress. However, a recent announcement by the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) revealed that law firms, insurers and key suppliers have agreed to continue progressing claims despite the health crisis. Importantly, this means that there is nothing to stop people from bringing a new personal injury claim or an existing claim from progressing.

The agreement between ACSO and the Association of British Insurers allows for temporary measures to ensure claims are still possible despite social distancing measures.

It allows for personal injury medical examinations, which are usually carried out in person, to be undertaken via video. Some claims for rehabilitation, both physiotherapy and psychotherapy, can be carried out remotely.

Medco – which oversees whiplash reporting – already allows video consultations, but this agreement has extended this to other types of personal injury case.

While this is only a temporary measure, it does mean that personal injury claims can continue to progress while social distancing measures are in place.

So, what should you do if you want to bring a personal injury claim? All of the rules that are in place for personal injury claims remain the same and there is nothing to stop people from making a claim. One of the most important things to remember is that there is a three-year time limit to making a claim. People are allowed to bring claims for personal injuries suffered before the pandemic.

While it may not be possible to meet legal representatives in person during the health crisis, lawyers are still working and can be talked to over the phone or virtually. All documentation can be shared electronically to keep the touching of physical paperwork to a minimum. Claims can still go to court during the pandemic through ‘virtual’ courts and joint settlement meetings, where settlements are agreed, are still taking place.

While coronavirus has affected the way we all live it has not stopped the wheels of justice from turning. As a result, there are no barriers from individuals making new personal injury claims or from existing ongoing claims from being progressed or resolved.

What should I do if I’m worried about accidents at work during the coronavirus crisis?

The pandemic has seen many workers across the UK working from home to help maintain social distancing rules. But as lockdown restrictions are eased more and more of us are being asked to return to the workplace. It is understandable that some people may be concerned for their safety and that accidents at work could happen when they return.

Accident at work specialists, First4Lawyers say if you are concerned about this the first thing to remember is that it is the duty of your employer to put safety measures in place to protect their employees and ensure accidents at work do not occur. In fact, business owners have been warned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that they could be prosecuted if they don’t stick to safety rules.

As a result, you have the right to report your employer to the HSE if you feel unsafe and think there is a chance that accidents at work could occur. The HSE has the power to inspect workplaces and order them to take immediate action. In really extreme cases they can even ban certain activities if there is a risk of serious injury. Failing to comply with the rules is a criminal offence so your employer could face prosecution.

So, what should you do if you feel that there is a risk of accidents at work? Although it is possible to report your employer to the HSE, the first step should be to approach your boss informally to raise your concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask them to provide their response in writing to you. Always remember, your employer has a duty of care to protect you at work.

If you don’t get the response you would have hoped for you can raise a formal grievance or go to the HSE. Many would ask if they have a right to refuse to work if you feel unsafe? The answer is that you do. The law states that you have the right to refuse to attend, or leave if you have just arrived. The law protects you when it comes to your safety and states that you should not receive any unfair treatment as a result.

While returning to work in the current climate is understandably stressful it is important to remember that your safety is protected by law. Don’t be afraid to speak up, as doing so could prevent you or one of your colleagues from being involved in an accident at work.

 

Accidents at work: what are your rights?

Accidents happen, but it a perfectly reasonable assumption for employees to expect that their workplaces will be safe. After all, it is an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees.

Yet the most recent Government statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) looking at accidents at work show that workplaces can be dangerous places:

  • 6 million workers sustained a non-fatal injury in 2018/19
  • 69,208 non-fatal injuries to employees reported by employers in 2018/19
  • 147 fatal injuries to workers in 2018/19
  • 2 billion is the annual cost of workplace injury in 2017/18
  • 2 million working days lost to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries in 2018/19

Your employer must:

  • tell you how to do your job safely in a way that you can understand, and tell you about the risks to your health and safety from current or proposed working practices;
  • tell you how any risks will be controlled and who is responsible for this;
  • consult and work with health and safety representatives and employees to protect everyone from harm in the workplace;
  • tell you how to get first-aid treatment and what to do in an emergency;
  • provide, free of charge, training to enable you to do your job safely;
  • provide any equipment and protection necessary for you at work (such as clothing, shoes or boots, eye and ear protection, gloves, masks etc) and ensure it is properly looked after;
  • provide health checks if there is a danger of ill health because of your work;
  • provide regular health checks if you work nights and a check before you start.

Your employer must also display or make available the following information:

  • the health and safety law poster (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/lawposter.htm), which must be displayed in a prominent place, or as an alternative, they can provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent pocket card. This should give the contact details of people who can help;
  • a copy of their health and safety policy statement;
  • an up-to-date Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) certificate (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hse40.htm) visible in your place of work

Of course, it’s not all one-way traffic and employers have certain responsibilities too, aimed at minimising the risk of any accidents at work. Employees must be sure to cooperate fully with their employers and colleagues to help everyone meet their legal requirements.

As an employee you must:

  • Follow the training you have received when using any work items your employer has given you.
  • Take reasonable care of your own and other people’s health and safety.
  • Co-operate with your employer on health and safety.
  • Tell someone (your employer, supervisor, or health and safety representative) if you think the work or inadequate precautions are putting anyone’s health and safety at serious risk.

If in doubt, or if you have any concerns, then you should talk to your employer. If after doing so you are still concerned, then contact the HSE for advice.

What to do after a faulty product injury?

When a product – whether new or old – causes you a personal injury, you might understandably be confused about how it was allowed to happen.

The UK was recently made aware of just how dangerous faulty products can be. When the new year began, Whirlpool began a nationwide recall of washing machines that had been found to be a fire risk.

This is a particularly worrying form of product fault as it can cause physical harm as well as potentially completely destroy a property and all possessions inside it.

So if you’ve been the victim of a faulty or defective product accident, what should you do?

Injuries after these accidents

As there are so many ways a product can malfunction, there are many ways you might be injured in such an accident.

The types of injury you might suffer include:

  • Electrical shocks or burns from defective electronic items
  • Rashes or scratches from fabrics, including furniture
  • Faulty prosthetics and hip replacements that break easily
  • Skin irritations or rashes from faulty cosmetics
  • Falls or other injuries from defective sporting equipment, such as treadmills
  • Injuries from defects in cars, such as faulty brakes
  • Illness caused by contaminated or poisoned food

Who is responsible?

In the majority of cases, the responsibility for a faulty product injury lies with the manufacturer. They are responsible for ensuring that every item they produce works effectively and safely. If they have not done so and a product is then found to cause harm to a person or to their property, this could show neglect on the part of the manufacturer.

If they do discover that one of their products has a fault, manufacturers are legally required to notify consumers of it, as well as recall any items that have been sold. Therefore, if a manufacturer does not issue a recall, despite being aware of an existing fault, they could be liable for any damage and harm caused.

In some cases, you may be required to prove that your item caused an injury. This is particularly true when something has only revealed itself to be faulty after six months or more. You will have to show that it was not misuse or accidental damage that caused the fault.

What to do

If you’ve been the victim of a defective item injury, you could find yourself out of pocket. This could be the result of damage caused to your other property, including clothing, as well as the medical treatment you may need. And in many cases, this can run up large bills, particularly if you need private or ongoing treatment to recover.

The Consumer Protection Act 1987 allows people who have suffered an injury as a result of a defective item to recover compensation. This can cover the suffering you experienced through sustaining an injury and any other losses you sustain, such as replacing or repairing damaged property.

This is why it is important to keep any receipts from purchases you make. This can help to form the evidence for any legal action you take against the manufacturer responsible. Keep any other documentation that comes with the product. This can help to prove that the manufacturer did not make you aware of any fault.

As soon as you discover the fault, it is important to report it to both the manufacturer and retailer. The length of time you have owned the product will dictate their course of action – whether that’s a refund or a replacement.

However, if they do not acknowledge your complaint or refuse to accept their liability, this could mean that it’s time to seek out the services of a qualified personal injury solicitor.

Image copyright: Markik