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Understanding Your Rights After a Workplace Accident: Legal Perspectives and Support 

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If your employer is making life difficult after an accident at work or they’re threatening to terminate your employment, this can create even more turmoil during an already stressful time.  

In situations like this, it’s important that you understand your legal rights, including what your employer’s responsibilities are, what your employment rights are, and what support is available. Being armed with this information can help you access financial support and put you in the best possible position to take action against your employer if necessary.  

What is the accident at work procedure – can you be dismissed?  

Following an accident at work, there are certain responsibilities that your employer must fulfil. This includes providing first aid, recording the accident, creating a RIDDOR report in certain circumstances, and carrying out an investigation. Learn more about the correct accident at work procedure and employer responsibilities in case of an accident.  

Generally speaking, if you’ve had an accident at work that wasn’t your fault, you can’t be dismissed for it. Similarly, you can’t be fired for making a personal injury claim at work. Citizens Advice outline the five legal reasons for dismissal, which are: 

  • you’re not capable of doing your job – for example because your performance is poor or you’ve been off sick a lot 
  • you’ve behaved badly – which is called misconduct or, for things like violence or criminal activity, gross misconduct 
  • there’s a legal reason why your employer can’t keep you on – usually this means you’ve lost the right to work in the UK 
  • your role is redundant – you’ll need to look at different rules to check if it’s fair 
  • of ‘some other substantial reason’ – this isn’t set out in law, but it means your employer has to show they had a good reason for dismissing you 

Source: Citizens Advice  

Dismissing an employee simply because they’ve had an accident at work that wasn’t their fault, or because they’re pursuing a personal injury claim, could be classed as unfair dismissal. You are also protected if you feel that your employer is treating you in a way that gives you no choice but to leave your job. This is known as constructive dismissal.   

In cases like this, you may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal, as well as a personal injury claim for your accident at work.  

Was it your fault?  

Liability in accident at work cases can be complex and we would always recommend that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. However, if you have had an accident at work that was clearly your fault, it is unlikely that you will be eligible to make a claim for compensation.  

Furthermore, where it has been shown that you aren’t capable of doing your job, or where you have behaved badly (misconduct), your employment could be fairly terminated, as highlighted above.  

If the accident was partly your fault, you could still have a claim for compensation. Personal injury claims allow for contributory negligence, which is where the injured party has been negligent in some way, but some blame still lies with the other party. In cases like this, you could still be eligible to make a claim for an accident at work, but your compensation settlement would be adjusted to reflect your part in the accident.  

Was it the fault of the employer?  

All employees have a right to be safe while at work and are protected under several workplace health and safety laws, including The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Under these laws, your employer must provide a safe work environment. They must assess possible risks, listen to employee concerns, maintain equipment, provide proper training, and provide safe facilities.  

Some examples of workplace accidents where employer negligence could be a factor might include: 

  • where an individual has been injured due to a lack of training in using equipment or machinery  where an individual has become injured as they weren’t provided with adequate PPE 
  • where an individual has fallen from scaffolding due to inadequate safety railings  
  • where an individual has been injured due to defective machinery, which wasn’t maintained properly  

If you’ve had an accident at work and it was your employer’s fault, they shouldn’t be able to sack you due to the accident, and it is your right to make a claim for your workplace injury

What if you’ve crashed a company car?  

If you’ve been involved in crashing a company car or another company vehicle, your legal position will depend on the specific circumstances of the accident and who was at fault. Liability in car accidents can be complicated and if it is a company vehicle, this adds another layer of complexity.  

Under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must consider the risks to employees and others while at work, which includes driving activity. Your employer may be liable or partly liable for your car accident if they are found to have failed in their legal responsibilities. 

Examples where an employer could be liable for a crash include where the accident was due to inadequate training, or perhaps the accident happened because of a fault and the vehicle wasn’t properly maintained. In cases where your employer is liable for the accident, they shouldn’t dismiss you because of it, and you could be eligible to make an accident at work compensation claim. 

If, on the other hand, the car accident was your fault entirely, it is unlikely that you would be eligible to make a personal injury claim, and your employer may be able to take action against you.  

Were you on long-term sick leave when you were dismissed?  

According to Citizens Advice, your employer can legally dismiss someone when they are on long-term sick leave. However, if the employee has been employed for two or more years, they are required to follow the correct process. Citizens Advice outline employer obligations. Your employer should:  

  • discuss with you that they might dismiss you  
  • show you details of medical evidence 
  • give you the opportunity to respond to medical evidence and their assessment  

Before they dismiss you, they should try to work out if and when you might be able to work again by looking into your medical condition.  

They should: 

  • check how long you were absent and if they have an accurate record of your sick leave 
  • gather information about your condition 
  • find out what any medical evidence says about your condition, including whether you can do alternative work or when you might return  
  • see if you’re due to have any further treatment that could improve your chance of returning to work 

Source: Citizens Advice 

Citizens Advice go on to advise that your long-term sickness might count as a disability under the Equality Act, and that if you believe you were discriminated against, you could be protected by law.  

Can you claim benefits if you’ve been dismissed due to an accident?  

If you’ve been sacked, you might be able to claim benefits, such as Universal Credit. For those who have been dismissed due to misconduct, Citizens Advice explain that there can be a delay in receiving benefits, known as a benefit sanction.  

If you’ve been injured in an accident at work, there are specific benefits available to help you. These include:  

You can learn more about the full range of government benefits available and how to apply via GOV.UK.  

Finally, as explained earlier, if you’ve been dismissed unfairly, you might be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal against your employer.  

How to bring legal action against your former employer  

If you believe you were unfairly dismissed due to an accident at work, you could be eligible to make a legal claim for unfair dismissal and a personal injury claim.  

  • To make a claim for unfair dismissal, you usually have three months from the end of your employment to start your claim. Find out more about making a claim to an employment tribunal. 
  • To make a personal injury claim, you typically have three years from the date of the injury, although there are some exceptions. We’d recommend you seek legal advice as soon as possible to confirm your eligibility.  

Submitting an accident at work claim via The Compensation Experts is easy. 

Step 1: Simply call our friendly agents on 0800 182 2189 orrequest a callback. We have a network of the best accident at work solicitors who have years of experience handling claims likes. They can help you claim the compensation you’re entitled to.  

Step 2:Once we’ve confirmed that we can proceed with your claim, our compassionate UK customer care team will listen to and understand your situation before putting you in touch with an expert personal injury solicitor to progress your case.    

Step 3: Your solicitor will gather evidence and will notify the negligent party that you wish to begin claim proceedings. With your solicitor negotiating on your behalf, you will either win the compensation you deserve, or you’ll pay nothing as per our No Win No Fee guarantee.   

Making a claim against your former employer can be daunting, especially if you’ve been fired, but with the right support, you can recover the compensation you deserve. We work with some of the UK’s leading employer liability solicitors, who can provide personalised legal advice and support through what can be a distressing time.  

Get the compensation you deserve if you’ve been let go  

In this article we’ve highlighted the importance of understanding your legal rights when it comes to an accident at work. We’ve outlined employer responsibilities in terms of health and safety, looked at the complexities of liability in workplace accidents, and asked whether you can be fired for crashing a company car. We’ve examined what your employment rights are if you’ve been dismissed after an accident at work, and shared information around whether you can claim benefits if you’ve been sacked. Finally, we have explained what your options are if you think you were treated unfairly and how to bring legal action against your employer.  

Seeking legal representation as soon as possible after an accident is key to ensuring you receive the compensation you’re entitled to. For no obligation advice, speak to The Compensation Experts on 0800 182 2192, or contact us online.