I fell at work. Can I claim PI even if my boss denies fault?


Having badly hurt his leg after slipping in the Royal Mail yard where he worked, a Preston postman has won compensation from his employer.

Accident at Work, Slip Trip Fall

Slipped on wet ground

On the 5th of April 2011, a day notable for rainy conditions, the worker loaded heavy postbags into a Royal Mail truck outside his delivery office. As he pushed a 'york' of mail from the lift to the rear of the truck, his feet slipped on the wet ground and he fell.

The postman, then 49, pulled a muscle in his right calf which led to acute pain for several weeks. With a history of issues with his calf exacerbating the problem, the worker's recovery took almost 7 months – longer than he first expected.

Difficult working conditions

Certain his accident was due to a combination of the wet weather and the fact that the yard is on an incline – a position supported by photographic evidence – the postman instructed Simpson Millar LLP to pursue a personal injury claim through his union, the CWU.

We believed that Royal Mail was in the wrong as it had failed to provide both suitable equipment and a safe workplace. There had been no adequate supervision, and they had failed to carry out any risk assessment as required by Health and Safety at Work Regulations. In all we found 12 failures that were attributable to our client's mishap.

Royal Mail denied responsibility – but had no evidence

At first the Royal Mail denied responsibility, arguing that although delivery office employees had complained about the slope of the yard, a previous site survey had apparently stated that the yard was satisfactory.

Not unnaturally we asked to see the survey report, an item on which Royal Mail's defence clearly relied. When they were unable to provide the report, however, settlement was agreed to the claim - but they did not accept liability.

"Royal Mail would not admit any breach of duty," noted Simpson Millar LLP's Ashley Stothard, who acted for the postman. "But the fact that they could not support their defence meant they felt obliged to pay our client the compensation he deserved."

Looking for loopholes

Ashley observed that some defendants will often automatically deny liability in attempts to avoid claims and their potential consequences.

"For this reason it's important to have appropriate legal assistance," she said. "A specialist solicitor can make further arguments for the claim which result in a successful outcome for the claimant.

"In this particular case, we knew we could request full disclosure from the defendant. Because Royal Mail could not provide this, it agreed to settle the case. We've also succeeded without a formal agreement on liability, which proves you don't always have to accept 'no' for an answer."

Our diligence won damages for client

Our persistence paid off, and our client was awarded compensation of £1,700. During the course of the case we were pleased to support the postman with the facilitation of expert medical advice.

Top tips to take away:

  • If you were hurt at work through no fault of yours and your boss denies liability, there may be more to it than you think
  • The law expects disclosure of everything relating to a claim. If your boss can't provide it, you're well-placed to win your case
  • A specialist personal injury solicitor is essential to getting to the bottom of every claim – and supporting you every step of the way

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