Workers who have sustained an injury as a result of an accident at work will find it much harder to bring a successful compensation claim after Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act came into force on the 1st October 2013.
The Government describes the purpose of the Act, which received Royal Assent in April of this year, as “cutting the costs of doing business in Britain, boosting consumer and business confidence and helping the private sector to create jobs.” However, from a personal injury point of view, the effect of the Act has been to switch the burden of proof for a work related injury claim from the employer to the employee.
The Government claims that such a radical switch was necessary because businesses are currently liable to pay compensation for employee injuries, even where they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent the injury from occurring. According to the Government, this has resulted in companies over complying with health and safety regulation out of a fear of being sued, and has led to them facing unnecessary costs.
The Government claims that the Act will help businesses by limiting the right to claim compensation to situations where it can be proved the employer has acted negligently. This means that an employer will be able to defend itself against a compensation claim on the basis of having taken reasonable steps to reduce the risk of an accident. As a result, says the Government, business will be able to manage health and safety risks in a sensible and proportionate way.
However, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has dismissed this argument, claiming that Section 69 of the Act amounts to nothing more than “a charter for rogue bosses,” and puts injured workers at a serious disadvantage when try to bring a compensation claim.
“Many people injured through no fault of their own will find it extremely challenging to secure justice,” said Matthew Stockwell, president of APIL. “The effects are likely to be profound and the consequences will not just affect the employees, but society as a whole.”
According to APIL, one of the biggest problems facing an injured employee will be in trying to access information about the accident in order to be able to prove negligence on the part of the employer.
This information could come in a variety of forms, such as maintenance records on any equipment involved in the accident, the results of any risk assessments that were carried out, or reports of similar accidents that have occurred in the past. However, whatever the nature of the information, it will usually be held by the employer and as such it might be very difficult for the employee to get to see it.
Without this access, an injured employee will face an uphill battle in trying to make a case against an employer, and APIL is concerned that these difficulties will deter employees from even attempting to bring a claim.
This will not only be very unfair on the employee, who has to live with the consequences of the injury without being compensated for the pain and distress they have experienced through no fault of their own, but will also be very bad news for the public purse. Compensation awards will usually include an amount to cover the cost of medical treatment and any other care required by the accident victim. If no compensation claim has been brought then it will fall on the State to pick up the tab for these costs.
“I am confident that good employers out there won’t take advantage of this,” commented Matthew Stockwell. ”It is the rogue employers who concern me, as they will be more likely to cut corners knowing they may get away with it and it will be the injured person who ultimately pays the price.”
For specialist personal injury advice in Scotland, including advice on bringing a claim for a work related injury, contact us today: click here to make an online enquiry or call us on 0800 027 1480.
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0.