As an employee, you are entitled to expect that your employer will provide you with a safe work environment. A failure in their obligation to do so, that results in an accident that causes you to suffer an injury, may give rise to a right to claim compensation.
The law does not require that your employer completely remove the risk of your being injured at work – this is impossible. However, it does provide that where employers do not take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of your being injured at work, and you suffer harm as a result, you are entitled to be compensated. If you are an employer, it's vital that you take expert employment law advice.
Workplace Accident Claims Lawyers for Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Leinster & Beyond
Claims for financial compensation for accidents at work are very complicated, and demand the attention of lawyers that understand the process involved. The accidents at work team at Sherwin O’Riordan deploy their expertise and experience to ensure our clients get the compensation they deserve.
What counts as an accident at work in Ireland?
There is no legal definition of an accident, reflecting the fact that accidents can happen in many different ways, for example:
- Slipping on a corridor floor that has not been cleaned properly;
- Being injured as a result of using faulty equipment;
- An employer failing to provide proper training on how to carry out duties;
- An employer exposing employees to hazardous chemicals/materials without proper protection.
The defining feature of an accident is that it will normally be the result of your employer either doing something, or failing to do something, that should have been avoided, causing you to be injured as a result.
How does the law treat employers?
The main piece of legislation that outlines how the law expects employers to treat their employees is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005. It imposes a duty on employers to cater for your safety, health and welfare at work so far as is reasonably practicable. It goes on to state that in order to your injury or ill health at work, it must take certain steps. These include:
- Provide instruction and training to you on health and safety;
- Give you protective clothing and equipment;
- Take steps to prevent any behaviour that could put your safety at risk;
- Put you in a safe environment that allows you to carry out your duties
It is very important to note that your employer’s responsibility to protect you from harm at work is wide-ranging. If you develop an illness as a result of your activities at work, and had not been adequately shielded from such a risk, your employer may have breached their obligations towards you. Furthermore, if your employer becomes aware that you are vulnerable at a certain point in time, and does not take extra measures to address your increased risk of injury, they may also be vulnerable to legal action.
How does the law treat employees?
As an employee, you owe a duty to your employer to take reasonable care for your own safety, and to follow the necessary procedures that your employer has put in place. Under the 2005 Act, you must, amongst other things:
- Report any problems with equipment that you think could become, or are, dangerous;
- Take reasonable care to protect your own health and safety, and that of your colleagues;
- Not do anything that will cause you to be a danger to yourself or anyone else.
How do you make a claim against your employer?
If you have suffered an injury at work because your employer failed to observe their responsibilities for your safety, you may be able to mount a personal injury claim against them. The steps involved depend on whether or not your employer disputes their liability for your injury.
In the first instance, you must apply to Injuries Board, an independent statutory body that will assess the claim you make for compensation. Where your employer agrees that it was legally responsible for your accident, the Board will issue an order for it to make payment of financial compensation to you.
If, however, your employer disputes its responsibility for your injury, or either you or your employer disagree with the Board’s award for compensation, the Board can refer the matter to the courts.
If you believe that the matter should be referred to the courts, it is important to be aware of the following:
- You must raise your claim within 2 years of the date of your accident
- The courts enforce a time limit on claims for compensation arising from accidents at work rigorously. If your claim falls out with this deadline, you may have lost the opportunity to seek financial compensation.
- You will need to convince the court that your employer was negligent towards you
There will only be proof that your employer was negligent towards you where there is evidence that:
- They owed you a duty of care to protect your safety – in most cases this will be easily established by virtue of an employment contract and the relevant legislation;
- They breached their duty of care towards you – in practice, this requires evidence that your employer did something, or failed to do something that should have been avoided. This will normally be evidenced by expert witness testimony;
- Their breach of their duty of care caused you to be injured – this is the most important criterion in the test for negligence: the breach in your employer’s responsibility to you must be the cause of your accident.
The court will determine the appropriate financial compensation.
If a court is satisfied that your employer has been negligent, it will consider the sum that you seek in financial compensation. However, it is for the court to determine how much the final award should be. Furthermore, any evidence that you contributed to your own injury, i.e. not following the correct procedures or exposing yourself to real danger, may result in a reduction in the award you ultimately receive.
Contact our Accidents at Work Team at Sherwin O’Riordan Solicitors Based in Dublin, Ireland
At Sherwin O’Riordan, our expert employment lawyers have over 40 years of experience in the field, and understand the concerns of individuals injured at work: their likelihood of future employment elsewhere; and the impact of the injury on their, and their family’s, quality of life. These considerations are at the forefront of our mind when dealing with claims for compensation for accidents at work. Our team provide a service that deals with every aspect of claims for injuries at work, offering a service that meets our clients’ needs. If you require legal advice on any of the above services or any other legal matter, get in touch on touch +353 1 513 7309 to speak with one of our experienced solicitors.