Each year thousands of people suffer accidents that should and could have been avoided. Too often, these victims suffer serious consequences from their injuries such as health complications and financial problems from being out of work. They do so without receiving any support which could help them get back on their feet. Why? Because too many people do not understand their legal rights and are intimidated by a system designed to help them.
Jonathan White is an expert specialising in personal injury. Each month, hell answer readers queries about their legal rights.
Q: I was shopping in a high street store with my nine year old daughter when she stood on an upturned security tag. The needle pierced her shoe and cut into her foot causing her a lot of pain. The shop didnt acknowledge the injury at the time so I contacted them to complain. Although they sent us a s20 gift card, they didnt apologise or seem remotely concerned. I would like to seek accident compensation so that they accept responsibility for their mistake and do not let this happen again. What is the process for claiming?
Mrs J Lord
A: You can claim accident compensation on your daughters behalf by becoming her litigation friend. This is a term for someone who brings a claim on someone elses behalf, usually a child. The important thing to note is that the gift card does not amount to an admission of fault by the store. You will need to write to the store, setting out the details of the claim and also obtain medical evidence describing the nature and extent of your daughters injury. The stores insurance company will investigate the claim and decide whether they wish to accept fault or dispute the claim. The main difference from a claim by an adult is that any accident compensation awarded to your daughter will be held in a special account, which gathers interest, until she is 18. Any settlement will also need to be approved by a judge to ensure that your daughter is properly compensated. I would strongly recommend that you seek advice from a legally trained advisor who will give you more information about the process for claiming accident compensation.
Q: I was at work in a garage when someone left the arm sticking out of a car ramp, causing me to trip over and break my leg. Ive already had two hip operations so this has caused me more problems. Ive had two further operations and my doctor has insisted I stay off work to recuperate. For a while I received sick pay but that has since stopped and I have no other way of earning money. With a large mortgage to pay, Im really worried. Do I have a case against my employer and will it impact my job when I eventually return?
Mr B Gulliver
A: Your employer is under a duty to ensure that the garage is kept free from obstructions that may cause an employee to trip. You certainly have a good case as your employer would be deemed to be at fault for the actions of the employee who left the arm sticking out of the car ramp. In practice the claim would be dealt with by your employers insurance company. It is going to take some time to properly evaluate the full extent of your injuries and your ability to return to work so, with a large mortgage to pay, you should apply for an interim accident compensation payment. This is an early payment designed to prevent financial hardship. This means that you should be able to cover your mortgage whilst you are unfit to work. Your employer cannot dismiss you for bringing a claim. As the claim will be dealt with by your employers insurance company, the fact that you have made a claim is very unlikely to impact on you when you return to work. Any ongoing physical symptoms which affect your ability to work would be taken into account as part of your claim.
If you have suffered a personal injury and are confused about your rights, email Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.national-accident-helpline.co.uk/knowyourrights for more information.