Accidents at Work Lawyers Dublin

Have you had an accident at work?  If so, it’s possible that your employer or another worker has been negligent or has not met the standards required by Health and Safety laws and you may be able to claim against their employers’ liability insurance.

Can I claim for an accident at work?

Many workplaces are dangerous to a certain extent, which is why there are now strict health and safety rules to govern everything from how needles are disposed of in hospitals to who is allowed to build scaffolding on construction sites.

Unfortunately, safe working practices aren’t always followed and safety equipment isn’t always up to scratch.

In these cases, accidents can and do happen, often leaving workers with serious injuries or illnesses that can lead to loss of earnings, and sometimes even loss of life.  That’s when you need to talk to a legal firm with the experience to help you seek the injury at work compensation you 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:

  • Dangerous working practices
  • Poor or non-existent workplace risk assessments
  • Limited or non-existent personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • A spillage that could have been prevented
  • An employer failing to provide proper training on how to carry out duties.
  • A fall from height
  • Poorly maintained equipment
  • Lack of adequate training

The defining feature of a workplace accident is that it will normally be the result of an employer either doing something, or failing to do something, that should have been avoided, causing someone 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 employees safety, health and welfare at work so far as is reasonably practicable. It goes on to state that in order to protect employees from injury or ill health at work, employers must take certain steps. These include:

  • Providing instruction and training to employees on health and safety;
  • Giving employees protective clothing and equipment;
  • Taking steps to prevent any behaviour that could put employees safety at risk;
  • Putting employees in a safe environment that allows them to carry out their 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 have failed in their obligations.

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 can an employee bring a legal action?

If an employee suffers an injury at work because their employer failed to observe their responsibilities for employee  safety, they may decide to take legal action. The steps involved depend on whether or not the employer disputes their liability for the employees  injury.

In the first instance, the employee must apply to Injuries Board, an independent statutory body that will assess the claim for compensation. Where the employer agrees that it was legally responsible for the accident, the Board will issue an order for the employer to make payment of financial compensation.

If, however, the employer disputes responsibility for the injury, or either the employee or employer disagree with the Board’s award for compensation, the Board will release the matter and you can bring court proceedings.

If the matter is to be referred to the courts, it is important to be aware of the following:

  • A claim must be raised within 2 years of the date of the accident
  • The courts enforce a time limit on claims for compensation arising from accidents at work rigorously. If the claim falls out with this deadline, the employee may have lost the opportunity to seek financial compensation.
  • The employee will need to convince the court that your employer was negligent towards you

There will only be proof that an employer was negligent towards employees where there is evidence that:

  • They owed a duty of care to protect employees 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 the employee — in practice, this requires evidence that the employer did something, or failed to do something. This will normally be evidenced by expert witness testimony;
  • The employers breach of their duty of care caused the employee to be injured this is the most important criterion in the test for negligence: the breach of an employer’s responsibility to the employee must be the cause of the accident.

The court will determine the appropriate financial compensation.

If a court is satisfied that the employer has been negligent, it will consider the sum that the employee seeks in financial compensation.  It is for the court however to determine how much the final award should be. Furthermore, any evidence that the employee contributed to their own injury, i.e. not following the correct procedures or exposing themselves to real danger, may result in a reduction in the award they ultimately receive.

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