Postal Worker Bags £16,000 In Workplace Injury Claim
The Law Of… Claiming For A Workplace Injury
An overloaded mail sack proved to be a postal peril for one Royal Mail worker, resulting in a serious injury. Ruth Magee, a Personal Injury Solicitor at Simpson Millar, reports on how a client's workplace accident led to a substantial financial settlement.
It was March 2013, and the Claimant in this particular case (henceforth referred to as Claimant A) was carrying out her duties at the Royal Mail sorting office where she worked. While segregating bags of post that had been dropped off for distribution by a Royal Mail driver, she reached for one bag and subsequently pulled her back.
The bag was later found to be overloaded, weighing in at 22kg. Unaffected in the immediate aftermath of the incident, Claimant A continued her shift, unaware of the damage that had been done.
Loss Of Earnings
The following day saw Claimant A in a considerable degree of pain. Prescribed pain relief, she was promptly signed off sick and unable to go back to work for several weeks. Even after she had returned, the pain continued in her lower back to such an extent that she was referred to the local Pain Management clinic. There she was prescribed steroid injections to her lumbar spine to help relieve the discomfort.
Having suffered loss of earnings as a result of her accident, Claimant A contacted her trade union, the CWU, who instructed Simpson Millar to provide representation on her behalf.
Exposing Employees To A Risk Of Injury Or Harm
A Letter of Claim detailing the grounds for personal injury and consequential losses was drawn up and delivered to Royal Mail.
The key allegations included:
- Failure to ensure employees didn't need to undertake manual handling operations which involved a risk of injury
- Failure to make suitable and sufficient assessment of all manual handling operations which involved the risk of employees being injured
- Failure to take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of injury to employees involved in manual handling operations where such a possibility existed
- Failure to take the appropriate steps to provide employees undertaking manual handling operations with general indications and, where reasonably practicable, precise information regarding load weight
- Exposing Claimant A to a foreseeable risk of injury or harm which was known, or ought to have been known, to be present.
The alleged faults were all contrary to the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.
Admitting Primary Liability
With the Letter of Claim delivered, Royal Mail was expected to acknowledge it within 21 days and make a decision on whether to accept liability within the following 3 months.
As Claimant A underwent an orthopaedic report to ascertain the extent of her back problems, Royal Mail admitted primary liability for the accident. The organisation then made its first offer to settle.
An Employer's Duty To Employees Involved In Manual Lifting
Measures needed to ensure an employee can work risk-free will vary depending upon the circumstances and requirements of the task, but considerations should include:
- Weight of the load to be carried
- Distance the load is to be carried
- Strength and fitness levels of employee tasked with carrying the load
- Health status of employee tasked with carrying the load (underlying medical conditions etc.)
- Availability of equipment to enable easier lifting.
In this case, the contents of the mail sack should have been broken down and spread across separate bags before Claimant A was expected to lift it.
Negotiating A Substantial Settlement
In light of advice from Ruth Magee, the proposed sum of £4,000 was swiftly rejected and proceedings were commenced. Royal Mail's solicitors were engaged and a follow up offer of £7,500 was received and also rejected.
Court proceedings were stayed while attempts were made to reach a settlement, and as Claimant A underwent a further course of steroid injections to her lower back, Royal Mail made an offer of £15,000. This was a gross figure, meaning it didn't take into account any deductions that would have to be made.
Holding out for a more acceptable financial offering, further negotiations, involving Ruth Magee and Royal Mail's solicitors, were entered into. While these took place, the possibility of the case reaching trial looked ever more likely.
A breakthrough was made when agreement was reached on a settlement of £16,000, a 'take home' figure Claimant A was happy to accept.
Commenting on her experience with Simpson Millar, she said:
"My Associate Solicitor, Ruth Magee, performed excellent work on my behalf. She was always on the ball and kept me up-to-date with everything."
If you have sustained an injury due to lifting at work, or suffered any other kind of workplace accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Simpson Millar and speak to one of our Personal Injury team today