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Manual Handling Claims

Compensation for manual handling injuries

Manual handling can lead to painful injuries and, in some cases, long-term conditions that can affect the individual’s everyday life. Manual handling accidents caused at work are usually avoidable but, unfortunately, they can lead to serious injuries. You may have suffered back injuries, severe wounds, internal injuries or other injury caused by a manual handling accident.

It’s only right and fair that if your injury was caused in the workplace and it wasn’t your fault, you should be able to make a manual handling compensation claim.

The reality is, many people carry out ‘manual handling’ tasks all the time, however we don’t usually consider the risks of doing so in our daily routine. But manual handling at work is different because the risks of injury are greater – and employers are legally responsible to prevent manual handling injuries caused in the workplace – for example, by ensuring correct training is provided.

Injuries can be caused by a range of manual tasks roles. Manual handling injuries are frequently caused by poor manual handling of items and machinery, repetitive actions involving your hands and arms or complicated or tiring physical handling and use of objects and tools. Manual handling of substances can even be linked to conditions such as mesothelioma – which is caused by asbestos dust and can take many years to develop. The handling of materials containing asbestos or other carcinogenic substances on building and constructions sites and in factories and in the printing industry can cause cancer and other lung and skin problems.

Unfortunately, manual handling injuries at work are a real risk where insufficient safeguards are put in place or workers are not properly trained. In fact, the Health and Safety Executive says manual handing causes more than a third of all workplace injuries in the UK, ranging from musculoskeletal disorders to back injuries.

Thankfully, if you’ve suffered a manual handling accident or long-term harm as a result of heavy, awkward or repetitive manual handling work, or dangerous manual handling practices, you should be able to make a manual handling claim. No matter how mild your symptoms caused by manual handling, contact a trained legal adviser for free advice on 0800 234 6438 about starting a no win no fee claim.

DID YOU KNOW: Before the covid-19 pandemic, manual handling, working in awkward or tiring positions, repetitive motions and using keyboards were the main causes of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

What is a manual handling accident?

Manual handling accidents can be caused by work that involves moving or operating items or machinery that require above average physical effort. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) define manual handling as work that involves “transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force”. Most loads would be objects – but the manual handling regulations specifically state that they can also be an animal or a person.

Unsurprisingly, manual handling activities are particularly common in industry where physical work is the norm. Manual handling injuries can be caused by a single manual handling incident or a series of repetitive manoeuvres, for instance, where you have been pushing or carrying items for a period of time and an injury or condition has developed. Industrial injuries are often triggered by manual handling situations such as:

  • The repetitive use of machines and keyboards
  • Lack of proper training in the use of equipment
  • Incorrect manual handling practices, such as feeding items into machines where safety guards have failed
  • Lifting awkward packages and boxes
  • Carrying large items across a distance
  • Pushing and pulling heavy or awkward items

Work-related injuries involving manual handling can occur in most sectors and industries, and can also give rise to faulty work equipment claims or factory accident claims. Examples of manual handling tasks which often result in injury claims include:

  • Accidents as a carer – manual handling tasks typically include lifting adults in and out of chairs, beds and showers without the help of hoists
  • Construction site accidents – strenuous, twisting movements involving brickwork, concrete, scaffolding and use of heavy machinery
  • Factory or warehouse accidents – lifting, pushing or moving large items and boxes, and repetitive tasks or actions
  • Military accidents – manual handling injuries during training exercises and manoeuvring military equipment
  • Unsafe industrial site accidents – lifting, pushing or moving heavy equipment
  • Office accidents – manual handling tasks may require rearranging office layout or working with office machines, such as printers or photocopiers and using keyboards
  • Agricultural and farming accidents – moving large bales and feedbags, filling, moving and pulling storage bins, working with large animals
DID YOU KNOW: The two industries with the most cases of musculoskeletal disorders are construction and human health and social work.

Your right to make a manual handling compensation claim

You have the right to make a manual handling accident claim if you have suffered an injury through no fault of your own. While you’re at work, your employer owes you and your colleagues a legal duty of care to protect you from harm. This means that if your employer has breached its duty and you have been hurt, you can claim compensation.

If you’ve developed a manual handling injury over time, you may be wondering – can I claim for occupational illness or disease? Thankfully you can, so long as the employer was at fault and you became aware within the last three years that your illness was caused by your job.

The most important thing you can do is call 0800 234 6438 if you have suffered injuries caused by a manual handling accident. Specialist solicitors can help you claim maximum compensation by bringing a no win no fee claim under a conditional fee agreement. Importantly, solicitors are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to provide legal services to recover injury compensation.

DID YOU KNOW: In the year 2020-2021, 162,000 workers were reported to be suffering from a new case of work-related musculoskeletal disorder.

What are the types of manual handling injuries and their complications?

Manual handling injuries are often musculoskeletal – affecting the joints and tissue, particularly in the hands and upper limbs, the neck, back, feet or legs. These are the most common types of manual handling injury which lead to manual handling claims:

  • Back injuries – Often caused by poor lifting and carrying techniques. Serious back injuries can include slipped discs and other spinal injuries.
  • Sprains and strains – These are common after over-stretching your muscles, which causes painful inflammation and, sometimes, bruising.
  • Hand and foot injuries – Any manual handling – even touching something – can cause various hand and foot injuries, ranging from broken bones, bruising and crush injuries or cuts from sharp edges or objects.
  • Musculoskeletal injuries – These are injuries to the joints, muscles, tendons and cartilage in the upper or lower limbs or the back, often caused through overuse. They can cause intense pain, discomfort and reduce your mobility.
  • Hernias – Unfortunately, hernias are a common manual handling injury caused by repeated strain, often on the lower abdomen. The strain causes part of an internal organ to push through a weak muscle or tissue. Hernias may cause intense pain and often require surgery.
  • Trips and falls – Manual handling can involve carrying or pushing large loads which can significantly reduce your visibility. The chances of tripping over an obstacle on the ground, such as a trailing cable or discarded box, or falling from a height while carrying a large item are increased – and you probably won’t get the chance to put a hand out to safe yourself.

How do I make a manual handling compensation claim?

It’s wise to start the first steps to claiming compensation as soon as possible while events are fresh in your mind. You may well be off work while you recover from manual handling injuries, which gives you a valuable opportunity to discuss your legal claim with experienced advisers.

Get in touch with an expert legal adviser as soon as you can and they can guide you through the next steps of making an injury claim for compensation. If you wish to proceed, your manual handling accident claims solicitor will give you free legal advice, take details about what happened and advise you what you to do next.

It’s important to gather as much information as you can about your manual handling accident. This may be photographs of the equipment or items you were handling and of the scene where your injury happened; details of any witnesses; and a copy of the accident log book entry if the incident has been formally recorded.

We know that in some cases, manual handling injuries may be cumulative rather than a single injury sustained in a single incident. Consider writing a detailed account of what was expected of you at in your workplace, the physical problems you experienced and whether you made complaints to your employer or asked for reasonable adjustments or other changes to be made. It is also important to tell your solicitor whether your employer undertook any risk assessment when you started the role – and since then, as they may be legally required to do so.

Medical evidence will also be important to your manual handling claim, so if you’ve not already seen your doctor – it is vital you seek medical advice and treatment as soon as possible. The more information your solicitor has to support your claim, the greater the chances of securing the maximum amount you deserve.

Your lawyer will discuss the personal injury claims process with you, guiding you through the initial steps and advising you of the options, depending on whether the employer accepts responsibility. In the majority of cases, manual handling compensation claims are settled without going to court.

To get the ball rolling and start your compensation claim, call free now on 0800 234 6438 to speak with a trained legal adviser or by filling in this online form and request a call back. Your claim will be taken on a no win no fee basis, which means you will not have to pay any legal fees if you don’t win. And if you do win, you’ll need to pay your solicitor’s success fee – this is a percentage of your compensation (it will never be more than 25% of the amount you’re awarded).

Do I need a solicitor to make a claim?

You’re not legally obliged to see a personal injury solicitor to make a manual handling claim. However, it can be a false economy to try to deal with it on your own. The risks of not instructing a specialist solicitor include receiving a lower level of manual handling compensation than you deserve – or losing your compensation claim.

You would also be mostly likely up against an insurance company. Insurers are notoriously difficult to negotiate with, while specialist solicitors are experienced in dealing with insurers on a daily basis.

For instance, suppose you’re considering making a manual handling accident claim without a specialist lawyer’s assistance. The insurer accepts liability and offers you £2,000. How will you know if that’s reasonable for your particular injury? If you accept their offer (which will be stated to be ‘in full and final settlement’) and you later realise it was unfair – you will be unable to reopen your compensation claim.

Our advice is to at least talk your manual handling accident compensation claim through with a specialist solicitor before deciding how to proceed. It won’t cost you anything to discuss it. Not only that, considering your solicitor will take your case on a no win no fee basis, you will not have to pay out anything if you lose.

I have a manual handling injury from work – what should I do?

If you have suffered a manual handling injury at work, there are some important steps you need to take as soon as you can:

  • Tell your employer about your manual handling accident and how your injuries were caused.
  • Make sure a formal record has been made of your injury in the accident logbook.
  • Seek medical attention. Even if you feel the injury or pain is relatively minor, it is vital for your claim that there are medical records relating to your injury.
  • Get in touch with a specialist legal adviser and find out how to bring a no win no fee claim.

It is also sensible to keep a diary of what has happened and how your symptoms progress. This will be an important part of the evidence that your solicitor will need to gather to build your case.

Will I have to go to court?

We understand that the question of whether you will have to go to court can be uppermost in your mind. The good news is, it’s highly unlikely your case will come to court – most manual handling claims are settled wihtout the need to go to court. No-one wants to go to court – not even an employer or their insurance company. In fact, only about 1 in 100 compensation claims go to court with all others being settled before reaching court. This simply means that the parties negotiate and agree on a fair amount of damages in the circumstances.

That said, sometimes court proceedings do commence, for instance if a settlement cannot be reached. Even where proceedings have started, it is very common for compensation claims to end up settling before they actually reaches court.

In the highly unlikely event you have to go to court, it is not as daunting as you might think. Apart from anything else, there is no trial (because it is not a criminal trial) and your manual handling compensation claim is simply heard by a judge. Your manual handling injury solicitors would prepare you well if you had to attend court, but it’s not something you need to be concerned about so early on.

DID YOU KNOW: Manual handling causes over a third of all workplace injuries. These include musculoskeletal disorders such as pain and injuries to arms, legs and joints, and repetitive strain injuries.

Can I make a work accident compensation claim?

In most cases where work injuries, such as a manual handling condition, has been caused, manual handling claims can be brought against employers. This is because workplace accidents are usually the result of employer negligence. Your employer owes you, as a worker, a legal duty of care under health and safety regulations to keep the risks to a minimum.

No one can guarantee that simple no fault accidents will never happen. However if the employer breaches their duty and you suffer a manual handling injury, then they should be held to account.

Can I make a claim if I’m self-employed?

Yes you can, if someone else was at fault. Around 4.19m workers were self-employed in January 2022 in the UK. Employers owe a duty of care to protect all workers from the risk of harm, whether or not they are employees. If you are self-employed and you have suffered a manual handling injury at work, you should not hesitate to make a claim.

What if I’m on a zero hour contract?

Individuals working under a zero hours contract – and agency workers – are also protected by health and safety law. So if you have been injured while undertaking manual labour, you can bring a manual handling claim.

What happens if my employer or its insurer goes bust?

It can be a shock to discover your employer has gone bust or goes into insolvency before you have a chance to make a claim, or after your claim as begun. The good news is, you should still be able to claim manual handling injury compensation because the business will most likely have had liability insurance in place. This means your claim will be against the insurer and not the insolvent company.

In the unusual event that the employer did not have liability insurance, you may well not be able to bring a manual handling injury compensation claim. That said, if the claim dates back to before 1 August 2016 (eg you’ve developed a long term condition as a result of manual handling), the situation may be more complex and you will need to discuss it with your expert injury solicitor.

Is my employer responsible for manual handling negligence?

Employers have general legal duties under working environment regulations that they must comply with to ensure the workplace is safe for the workforce. These are set out under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. If they fail in their duties, employers are liable for manual handling accidents and injuries that result from breaches of health and safety guidelines.

DID YOU KNOW: More than 30m working days are lost in the UK every year as a consequence of musculoskeletal conditions.

Employers are required to have effective procedures and processes that can promptly identify any risks to health and safety and to act on any risks identified. These are known as ‘risk assessments’ and employers must carry them out regularly. In fact, one of the most common causes of manual handling accidents is the lack of a risk assessment.

A risk assessment can identify whether an employee undertaking a manual task is protected from the risk of an injury – whether from a single incident or as a result of repetitive manual work. Risk assessments can also identify situations where manual work can be minimised or even eliminated to reduce the risk of injury.

As well as their general duties to the workforce, employers must also comply with specific rules and safety regulations where applicable. These include:

In many work environments, it would not be unreasonable for employers to seek advice from health and safety specialists to make sure they’re taking adequate measures to reduce the risk of employer’s negligence.

In the case of serious manual handling injuries – including a diagnosis of occupational illnesses and conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or occupational cancer – employers must report these to the HSE under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013).

How does the accident at work claim process work?

Starting a claim for an accident at work is not as complicated as you might think. When you claim compensation, the process begins with an initial free consultation with a legal adviser on 0800 234 6438. They will talk you through how the process works but will never pressurise you into taking your claim forward. If you decide to go ahead with your manual handling injury compensation claim, the adviser can pass you on to an expert solicitor who will be on hand to answer any questions and keep you updated on the progress of your claim.

Once your solicitor has the details to start building your manual handling injury compensation case, they will notify your employer (usually their insurance company who will deal with the claim on the employer’s behalf). Your solicitor will then try to negotiate a settlement with the other side.

If the employer’s insurer makes a compensation offer, your solicitor will talk you through the offer and advise you whether or not you should accept. Assuming a settlement is reached, you will usually be paid your compensation within two to four weeks – allowing you to get on with your life.

Will I need to provide proof?

Yes, all personal injury cases such as manual handling injury compensation claims must be substantiated by proof of what happened and the injuries caused. The most important evidence your manual handling solicitors will need to make a compensation claim is medical evidence of your manual handling injuries and the prognosis. Your solicitor will ask you for permission to contact your GP and any other doctors you have already seen, to get copies of your medical records.

As your claim progresses, your solicitor will arrange for you to have an expert examination and report carried out by independent medical professionals. This will be arranged under your no win no fee agreement, so you need not worry about any cost involved.

You will also be asked about any independent witnesses to the incident who would be prepared to give witness evidence. Witnesses’ explanation of events are often critical to proving manual manual handling claims.

Is there a time limit for starting a claim?

The general rule, as in all personal injury cases, is that you have three years from the date of the accident to make your manual handling injury claim. After three years, you may be ‘time barred’ from making a claim. However, we know that manual handling injuries can take weeks, months – or sometimes years – to develop symptoms. In these cases, the three-year period starts to run from the date you could reasonably have expected to have known your injury or illness was caused by your working environment.

If in doubt about whether you are time-barred, don’t assume you can’t make a claim because time has passed. Call a legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438 or fill in our online form to get a call back from an adviser.

How much could my manual handling injury claim be worth?

Your compensation will depend on the nature and extent of your manual handling injury or condition. The reality is, no two cases are the same so it can be very difficult to give an exact figure of how much compensation you might receive for your injuries. However, armed with all the information about your particular injury, your solicitor will work hard to secure you the maximum amount of compensation possible for your particular injury or condition.

The compensation you receive will be made up of two different types of damages: general damages and special damages.

General damages

General damages cover the pain and suffering, and loss of amenity caused by your injuries. Factors that will be relevant in determing the amount of general damages awarded include:

  • The pain and suffering caused by the injury, and how long this lasts
  • How long it will take you to recover from the injury
  • Any permanent or long-lasting problems as a result of the accident

Helpfully, there are formal guidelines (Judicial College Guidelines) which lawyers refer to calculate what someone could be entitled to by way of compensation for manual handling injuries. For example:

  • Minor to moderate repetitive strain injuries with recovery from a few months to three years – £2,200 to £10,750
  • Serious injury to the shoulder – £12,700 to £19,200
  • Serious carpal tunnel syndrome – £14,900 to £23,130
  • Moderate back injury – £12,510 to £38,780
  • Crushed foot with fractures – £13,740 to £24,990

These figures demonstrate how wide a range of compensation is potentially available and how difficult it is to provide an early estimate of how much your injury is worth. A specialist solicitor will be able to give you a more accurate picture of how much compensation you deserve.

They will also be able to discuss whether you should be able to settle your claim with the employer. For example, if you’re wondering how much you should settle for a manual handling injury, your solicitor will try to negotiate the maximum amount possible (taking into account the judicial guidelines mentioned above).

DID YOU KNOW: In 2021, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council in Wales paid out £13,486 compensation for a manual handling shoulder injury to one of its employees.

Special damages

You can also claim for financial losses stemming from manual handling accidents – known as ‘special damages’. The aim is to compensate you for your past and future financial losses. Your solicitor will ask you for detailed information about the financial impact of your injury or condition before calculating how much to claim. For example:

  • Loss of earnings if you’ve had to have unpaid time off to recover
  • Loss of bonuses, overtime etc if you’ve missed out because of being off sick
  • Travel costs if you’ve been unable to drive
  • Prescription and other medical expenses, such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy

Usually, you will need to provide payslips, receipts and invoices etc to your solicitor to substantiate your special damages claim – so keep them safe if you can.

Can I get an interim compensation payment?

In the case of a serious manual handling injury, you may well be struggling financially as you recover. If so, you may be able to secure interim payments of your compensation to cover any immediate expenses before a final settlement is made. Your solicitors can advise whether such early compensation payments are a potential option for you. But bear in mind that interim payments are usually only possible in cases where employers accept responsibility for manual handling accidents.

DID YOU KNOW: An agency worker was paid £18,000 in compensation by Morrisons supermarket after he was injured during his first shift doing a manual job at a factory. The 29-year-old needed dental work after baskets fell from a conveyer belt, injuring his nose and two front teeth.

How long does it take to make a manual handling injury claim?

Minor manual handling injury claims where the employer accepts liability can usually be concluded quickly. On the other hand, complicated manual handling claims where – for example – injuries have developed over time or where employers deny liability for manual handling accidents, can take several months or even years to conclude.

However, there are important court rules such as pre-action protocols that aim to keep personal injury claims, like manual handling injury claims, within a manageable time frame and to encourage an early settlement. Your solicitor will be able to talk you through the time scales of what the manual handling claims process involves and the steps that can be taken to speed things up.

If I make a claim does it put my job at risk?

You have the legal right to bring a manual handling injury claim if it was caused by someone else. However, we understand the worry about possible repercussions at work. Thankfully, when it comes to making an injury claim against your employer, there are laws to protect you from being unfairly dismissed or treated differently, such as the Employment Rights Act 1996. These laws make it illegal to sack or discipline a worker they have made a claim against you.

If you were to lose your job, or suffer harassment after making your claim, you should be able to take legal action against your employer under employment laws. This can be hugely reassuring for injured workers.

You may also be wondering: Will my employer be left out of pocket? We understand this worry can put additional emotional pressure on you if you’re concerned that by making a claim, your employer will lose money. However, your employer will have insurance covering the risk of manual handling accident claims. This means that if you do win compensation, the insurer will make the pay out – not the employer.

What if the accident was partly your fault?

In most workplace accident claims, fault is with the employer. Usually, there has been some breach of health and safety rules which directly led to the worker’s injury. However, in some cases the worker is at least partly to blame.

Firstly, it’s important to know that even if you think you were to blame for what has happened, it may actually be the case that you were not to blame at all. This makes it really important you discuss the incident with a specialist solicitor before ruling out making a claim.

Even if you were partly to blame, it doesn’t mean you can’t claim compensation. It simply means you may not be entitled to the full amount of compensation you would otherwise have received. This is called ‘contributory negligence’. For example, if you were found 25% at fault for what happened, your compensation would be reduced by 25% to reflect your contributory negligence. If you were completely at fault, you will not be able to recover any compensation.

In practice, your employer may dispute the claim alleging that you were partly to blame. For example, you may have been ignoring clear warnings about how not to lift awkward items or you failed to report problems with your physical ability to do your job for some weeks.

If your employer argues you were completely to blame, your solicitor will work hard to prove that your employer was partly or fully to blame – and they will need as much evidence as possible from you to reduce any proportionate contributory negligence found against you.

If you were found partly to blame for your manual handling injury, it’s not always easy to determine to what extent contributory negligence should be assessed. However, as the law stands at present the courts decide, in light of both the parties’ contributions to the accident and injury, what apportionment of damages would be fair.

Whilst I am off work, am I entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

If you are employed and have been injured at work and you need more than four consecutive days off sick to recover, you should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) (currently £116.75 per week for up to 28 weeks).

Many employers are more generous and will pay more than the SSP rate. Your contract of employment may state what your entitlement is. Your employer can also tell you if it operates a sick pay scheme. In some cases, an employer who is clearly liable for manual handling injuries may agree to pay more generously, even if they don’t have to. Talk to them about it.

The Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit may also be available if you were employed at the time of the accident, and you need time off work because of a work-related accident or illness. How much you would be entitled to depends on nature and extent of your disability (you must be at least 14% disabled). The maximum amount is currently £188.60 per week

If you’re self-employed and need time off work, you’re not entitled to SSP but you may be entitled to other benefits, such as employment and support allowance. Your solicitor will be able to discuss these possibilities with you.

Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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