Making a Claim for Back Injury Compensation
Suffering a back injury
Figures for back pain in the United Kingdom show that, at any one time in a year up to 49% of people are suffering from back pain and that four out of five people will suffer back pain at some time in their life. These figures, when put alongside the fact that the NHS spends over a billion pounds a year on costs relating to back pain, are shocking enough in themselves, but they don’t even begin to capture the debilitating effect which back pain can have upon the life of an individual.
Most cases of back pain, it’s true, clear up on their own within a period of six weeks but in the more serious cases the pain becomes chronic, meaning that it is bad enough to have a severely limiting effect upon the person suffering.
Back injuries at work
In many cases, the cause of back pain remains impossible to track down but it is also one of the most common injuries which occur in the workplace, and if you injure your back at work then you may be able to make a claim for compensation. There are two main ways in which people tend to injure their back whilst working: some cases are caused by a sudden violent incident such as slipping and landing awkwardly or damaging the back through heavy lifting, whilst others develop over a longer period of time and may be caused by such things as an unsuitable work station, with a chair which doesn’t support the back, for instance, or a standing position which leads to damage.
In either of these cases you may be able to claim for compensation from your employer. It’s not a question of trying to cash in – they have a duty of care toward you and, by failing to carry out this duty they have left you injured, in pain and unable to work or pursue your social life. In these circumstances it seems only fair that you should be compensated.
They may have asked you to lift something which was too heavy for one person, or failed to provide a chair with sufficient support for your back. Many people hesitate when thinking of claiming against their employer for fear that it might affect their status at work, but it is strictly against the law for an employer to discriminate in this manner. What’s more, such claims will be paid out of insurance which every employer has to take out, so there’s no need to worry about taking cash directly from your boss’s pocket.
According to the law, employers must provide a safe working environment for their employees, by:
- Carrying out risk assessments and implementing safety measures to reduce the risk of injuries.
- Taking action if any worker reports an injury caused by their job. If an employee has returned following sick leave, the employer must ensure that their work does not make the illness or injury worse.
- Making reasonable adjustments to the workplace for members of staff who suffer from a disability as defined in the Equality Act 2010.
Suffering a back injury
Disorders of the lower back are amongst the most prevalent suffered by workers in the UK. According to the Health and Safety Executive, there were 194,000 total cases in 2016/17, equating to 600 out of every 100,000 people employed and leading to approximately 3,300,000 lost working days. On average, each person suffering an injury of this kind had to take around 17 days off work.
According to the general practitioners scheme, which collects work related information from patients presenting to their GP, the type of work which was most likely to have been involved when somebody was suffering a spine or back disorder was lifting and carrying. Other activities linked to the problem included material manipulation, keyboard work and even light lifting.
The main legislation covering the duty of care which your employer has toward you – a duty which includes taking all reasonable steps to help you avoid suffering a back injury – is set out in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which covers the topic in a generalised manner and includes all of the legal responsibilities an employer has to meet. The particular nature of back injuries, however, and of the industries and tasks which are most closely associated to them, means that there are other pieces of legislation which are particularly relevant to the problem. These include:
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – Regulation 3 of this legislation requires employers to carry out full risk assessment of the health and safety of their employees.
Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 – This requires employees to risk asses all manual handling tasks and imposes a duty to avoid such tasks if they reasonably can, when the possibility of injury is present. If the risk cannot be avoided altogether, steps must be taken to reduce it as far as possible.
Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 – People who work with visual display units (VDUs) may find themselves suffering from back pain. In order to minimise the risk amongst those employees who spend a large part of their day working in front of a VDU, the regulations state that employers should:
- Analyse workstations to ensure that they meet minimum requirements.
- Plan the working day so that it includes breaks or changes in activity.
- Provide relevant information and training.
Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 – The presence of certain levels of vibration can cause severe back pain. This type of vibration, known as Whole Body Vibration (WBV), is often experienced by employees who drive mobile machines or vehicles over rough and uneven surfaces. The regulations set out specific levels of vibration and exposure times which employer should ensure their employees do not exceed. The guidelines state that the action taken should include risk assessment, a reduction in the daily exposure to WBV and training on the dangers for those employees at risk.
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 – These regulations deal with basic health and safety issues – although they don’t apply specifically to work on construction sites, in or on ships or below ground in a mine – and, since being introduced, have been amended by the Quarries Regulations 1999, the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002, the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
Taken as a whole, these various bits of legislation create a powerful protective framework in which an employer has to work. To summarise, your employer should take all steps to allow you to avoid manual handling, or to minimise the risk of injury when any such handling does take place. If you report any discomfort to your employer when undertaking such a task then they should revise the manner in which it is being done. If they don’t, or if they fail to meet any of the standards set out in the regulations listed above, then you may have the right to claim for compensation.
Different types of back injuries
Many people may think that back injuries are all the same, but there are actually several different conditions caused by a trauma injury to the back. These include:
- Slipped disc (prolapsed or herniated disc) – probably the most common back injury, a slipped disc can cause serious pain and discomfort. The injury occurs when one of the discs inbetween the bones (vertabrae) in the spine is damaged and presses against a nerve. This type of injury can lead to pain in the back and neck, and could cause pressure to be placed on the sciatic nerve, leading to pain or numbness in the legs and buttocks. A slipped disc can be the result of an impact injury, such as a car accident, or lifting heavy objects at work.
- Spondylolisthesis – an injury that occurs when a vertebra in the lower spine is forced out of place. This is different from the previously mentioned slipped disc, as in spondylolisthesis the actual bone is damaged, rather than the disc in between the bones. Symptoms may vary, but can include lower back pain, sciatica, tight hamstring muscles, stiffness and tenderness. Although this condition can be the result of a genetic condition, it is also sometimes the result of trauma due to an accident.
Get compensation for a back injury at work
If you’ve hurt your back and feel that it might have happened at work, then give the details to our personal injury lawyers and they will decide honestly whether you’re in a position to make a claim.
If you are, they will want to gather together as much information as possible, including things such as the work accident book, any medical reports, eyewitness accounts and receipts for any expenses arising as a result of your back injury. All of this will be turned into a case on the basis of which it will be decided if you’re due any compensation, and how much it will amount to.
The no win no fee system means that you won’t have to pay anything up front to achieve this, and the final piece of good news is that your employer may well do things differently in the future, thus sparing other workers the pain you’ve had to go through.