Repetitive strain injuries are usually soft tissue injuries and can occur as a result of repetitive and strenuous activity in the workplace. Employers have a duty of care to their employers to make sure appropriate safety measures are in place to protect their workers from developing such injuries. When employers breach this duty causing injury to employees, this can be negligence and you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.
Common repetitive strain injuries include tendonitis, vibration white finger, hand arm vibration syndrome, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Occupations that are more likely to cause such injuries include jobs where vibrating tools or machines are used, or heavy lifting is involved regularly for example. Your employer is under a duty to have certain health and safety mechanisms in place to avoid causing injury. These include regular breaks from strenuous work, shift rotation, appropriate training and equipment.
In order to prove your employer has acted negligently your repetitive strain injury must be linked directly to your employment. Seeking medical advice is always the first step if you are experiencing recurring pain, we will then advise you on the merits of your claim based on medical evidence.
How We Can Help
When bringing a claim for occupational repetitive strain injury you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. It is often the case that potential claimants delay the process too long and are then unable to bring a claim due to limitation issues. The Statute of Limitations allows three years from the ‘date of knowledge’ for claimants to make a claim for compensation. The ‘date of knowledge’ is the date when your injury was directly linked to your occupation by a medical professional.
The claims process can vary but will generally adopt the following format:
1. Free Initial Consultation – When you arrange an appointment with one of our personal injury solicitors, they will meet you and take your instructions in relation to the injury you have sustained. You will be asked to provide details about your employer, the type of work you carried out, how long you worked there, what negligence is alleged and the date when a medical professional linked the injury to your occupation.
2. Letter of Claim – Your solicitor will then send a letter of claim to the at fault employer setting out detailed allegations of negligence. The third-party employer is then obligated to pass this on to their insurance company, who will deal with the matter from that point onwards.
3. Engineers report – An expert engineers report may be required depending on the nature of the case. If it is alleged that an unsafe system of work or an unsafe working environment is in place, then an expert opinion may be required to examine the work area and provide a report.
4. Medical Evidence – If you have been to your GP or the hospital in respect of your injuries, we will obtain these notes and arrange for you to be examined by a specialist medical Consultant who will provide a report on whether your injury was caused by your occupation. The medical report in repetitive strain injury claims is very important as injuries of this nature are accumulative and it is important that the medical expert finds that the injury was caused by your work in order to make a successful claim.
5. Decision on Liability – The third-party insurance company will have three months from the date our initial letter of claim is sent to complete their investigations and provide a decision on liability. If liability is admitted, then medical evidence will be provided to the insurance company and both parties will enter into settlement negotiations.
6. Court Proceedings – If liability is denied your solicitor will consult with you and discuss issuing Court proceedings to try and recover damages. When Court proceedings are issued your solicitor will instruct a specialist barrister to help prepare your case for Hearing. Court proceedings can also be issued in a case where liability has been admitted if we feel the compensation being offered by the insurance company is not sufficient. Our expert solicitors will advise clients on their options, but the final decision will always be made by the client and we will ensure that their wishes are carried out.
Repetitive strain injury claims can be a little more complex than standard personal injury claims. The reason for this is that it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of such injuries, this can often result in insurance companies denying liability or claiming that the employer was only partially to blame for the claimant’s injury. We have devised a hypothetical scenario to demonstrate how a claim of this nature would operate in practice:
Michael is a 37-year-old construction worker. One of his main roles on site is to operate a jack hammer to break up rock. He is asked to do this quite regularly. A few months ago Michael started to notice problems occurring with one of his fingers. He went to see his GP who instructed him that it looked like vibration white finger, which is commonly caused by occupations which involve vibrating machinery.
Michael then arranged an appointment with a personal injury solicitor in PA Duffy and Company. He instructed his solicitor that he had been operating the jack hammer for full days, on numerous occasions, with only a 30-minute break throughout the day. His solicitor wrote a letter to his employer setting out the allegations of negligence and breach of statutory duty which caused Michael’s injury.
Michael then attended with a Consultant Vascular Surgeon who provided a report on causation. The report attributed 80% of Michael’s injury to his occupation. The report stated that Michael was a keen rally driver in his spare time and attributed 20% of the injury to this hobby as the vibrations caused from the steering wheel would have contributed to the overall injury.
This report was then forwarded to the insurance company who accepted the medical expert’s estimation that Michael’s employer was liable for 80% of the damage caused. They would therefore, pay 80% of the compensation.
The medical report recommended a change of job role, which can be easily accommodated. Michael’s pain and discomfort would be ongoing and would probably worsen in cold weather, although it would not interfere with his home or social activities. Michael’s solicitor negotiated that £22,000 would be an appropriate settlement, with the agreed 20% deduction and no loss of earnings this brought Michael’s compensation total to £17,600. He was delighted with this and instructed his solicitor to settle the case.