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Compensation Claims Against the State Up by Almost a Fifth

Posted: October 21st, 2017

A recent report issued by the State Claims Agency has shown that there was a rise in the cost of compensation claims taken against the State, bringing the overall cost of these compensation actions to almost €2.2 billion last year.

This is equivalent to 22% increase on the 2016 figures according to the agency responsible for legal actions taken against the State.  The total number of cases encountered throughout 2016 was 8,900 up to the end of the year, up from 6,000 in 2015.

Main Factors Behind the Increase in Compensation Paid Out by the State

  1. The Department of Education settled/paid out legal compensation claims for an estimated €50 million.
  2. €1.9 billion of the €2.2 billion overall State compensation paid out was by Tusla and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
  3. Any individual who is successful in a legal action is now entitled to a higher pay out following a Supreme Court ruling to make up for falling returns on the cash awarded.
  4. The Department of Justice and Defence paid out State compensation claims worth around €175 million compared to €27 million of compensation claims for the Department of Health.

The State Claims Agency, part of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), was established to address the continual increases in compensation actions being made against the State.

Séamus McCarthy Comptroller and Auditor General for the NTMA commented on the increase of 22% saying “The number of claims under management has increased significantly since 2011”.

Sewerage Plant Worker Receives Compensation for Slip and Fall Injury

Posted: September 17th, 2017

A former worker at a sewerage plant has been awarded compensation for a slip and fall injury he suffered at work, after accepting some liability for the accident himself.

In February 2010, an employee at the Templemore sewerage plant in County Tipperary was working when he slipped and fell on a path while at work. A subsequent investigation discovered that the fall was due to sewerage overflowing from the flumes surrounding the inlet channels at the now decommissioned plant.

As a result of his accident, the employee suffered frequent headaches and sustained a back injury. The severity of the injury was such that he was prevented from adequately performing his job at the plant, and thus could not return to work. He sought legal counsel, and applied to the Injuries Board for an assessment of compensation for a slip and fall injury at work. However, the defendants-the party responsible for the sewerage plant, Templemore Town Council-denied consent to assess the claim.

As a result, the former employee of the plant sought authorisation from the Injuries Board to pursue his claim in court. This authorisation was granted, and a hearing to determine liability and assess damages took place last week at the High Court. The case was heard by Mr Justice Raymond Fullam. The judge was informed that the employee worked alone at the time of the accident, and that no safe system of work had been implemented by the council for the workers at the sewerage plant.

The council defended the claim for compensation for a slip and fall injury at work by arguing one of the employee´s duties was to keep the paths clear of hazards. They further stated that if he needed additional tools to complete his duties, he should have asked for them from his superiors. The council contested that the employee´s accident had occurred due to his own lack of care and negligence, and thus denied all liability.

Judge Fullam agreed with the defendants that the employee was partially responsible for his accident, and therefore he should take some responsibility. However he accepted the employee´s evidence that frequently the pumps in the plant experienced issues, and he did not have time to clean the paths on a regular basis. Judge Fullam also acknowledged that flumes surrounding the inlet channels were in a bad state on the day of the accident.

The judge said that he would have awarded the plaintiff €79,000 compensation for a slip and fall accident at work, however he was reducing the award by 40% to account for the plaintiff´s contributory negligence. The adjusted settlement of the claim consequently amounted to €47,400.

Worker Compensated for Inadequate Training

Posted: December 7th, 2015

A man, who used to work in a meat processing factory, has received a compensation settlement of €415,000 after it was determined he received inadequate training for his job.
The accident occurred on the 11th January 2011, when Mohammed Ali Saleh from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath was at work in the Moyvalley meat factory in Co. Kildare. As he was working, he felt a sharp pain in his back whilst he was working at the pluck station. A later examination determined that Mr Saleh had suffered from a prolapsed disk.
Mr Saleh was no stranger to back problems, though this was worse than he had ever suffered. An MRI scan was conduced that showed that decompression was urgently required, though two operations later, Ms Saleh was still diagnosed with failed back syndrome and is now reliant on crutches to move.
Mr Saleh sought legal counsel before proceeding to make a claim for compensation against his employers. In the claim, he stated that Moyvalley Meats Ireland Limited had failed to ever show him proper use of the plucking process that did not require him to twist his back. This repetitive twisting has been identified as the cause of the prolapsed disc.
However, the employer denied any liability for the injury, claiming that Mr Saleh had indeed been provided with adequate training and that the condition from which he currently suffers was as a result of another, pre-existing condition. No agreement was reached, and as such the case proceeded to the High Court in Dublin where it was overheard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.
Evidence was given at the hearing by an expert witness who testified that the training that Mr Saleh had received from his employers consisted of watching a fellow employee operate the machine at the plucking station. The expert also stated that no safe system had been implemented as to avoid the twisting manoeuvre, and that the training provided was not adequate to prevent an injury such as Mr Saleh’s.
Judge Cross ruled in Mr Saleh’s favour, saying that Moyvalley meats was breaching its duty to adequately train employees. An award of €415,000 was made to Mr Saleh.

Big Jump in Workplace Injury Compensation Settlements

Posted: April 3rd, 2015

The Injuries Board Annual Review for 2014 has revealed a substantial increase in the average value of workplace injury compensation settlements.

Although the Injuries Board Annual Review for 2014 indicated a general stabilisation in the number of workplace injury claims, the average value of workplace injury settlements increased by almost 12% from €28,886 in 2013 to €32,134 in 2014.

One exceptional employer liability claim – which resulted in an assessment of €972,898 – was partially responsible for increasing the average value of workplace injury compensation settlements, which over the course of the year totalled €20.1 million.

The Injuries Board figures do not account for any workplace injury compensation settlements that were resolved by negotiation prior to the Injuries Board completing its assessment, or any workplace injury claims in which liability was contested and the claim had to be resolved in court.

31,576 applications for assessment were received by the Injuries Board last year (including motor liability and public liability claims) and, after the Injuries Board had completed its assessments, 12,420 settlements were accepted (39%).

The acceptance rate is significantly higher than the previous year due to a large volume of applications being received towards the end of 2013 which were only resolved last year. Nonetheless, Patricia Byron – the Chief Executive of the Injuries Board was satisfied with the performance of her organisation over 2014. She said:

“While the volume of new claims stabilized last year, the increase in the number of awards made by the Board is a clear indication that more respondents, typically insurers, are opting to engage with our low cost claims resolution service and recognize the real value of avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation where uncontested claims are concerned”.

Ms Byron continued: “2014 was an important year for us as we marked a decade in operation. As a result of our journey, personal injury compensation is now delivered in 7 months and at a processing cost of 6.7%, compared to almost 3 years and a cost of 58% for litigated claims. With over €1 billion in savings delivered to date and a ten year track record behind us, the benefits of non-adversarial claims resolution are unequivocal.”

Slips, Trips and Falls Still Leading Causes of Workplace Injury Claims

Posted: February 1st, 2015

According to a press release from the Injuries Board, slips, trips and falls are still the leading causes of workplace injury claims in Ireland.

Slips, trips and falls accounted for 30.8% of workplace injury claims in 2013 according to the Injuries Board, who produced the figures to compliment the news that the volume of claims for workplace injury compensation had increased by 5% from 2012 and that the accepted assessments of those claims rose by almost 10% to £24 million.

Compensation settlements for falls from a height featured in three of the top ten awards of workplace injury compensation, although the vast majority of awards were under €38,000. The highest award was made to an employee who suffered life-changing injuries when they became trapped in a machine. The plaintiff was awarded €432,000.

Other leading causes of workplace injury claims were:

  • Struck by an object/falling object – 13.4%
  • Unsafe system of work – 7.9%
  • Lifting/manual handling accidents – 7.7%
  • Cuts and lacerations from sharp objects 4.1%

Commenting on the year-on-year increase in workplace injury claims, Patricia Byron – CEO of the Injuries Board – said: “From a peak rate of unemployment in 2012, increasing numbers of workers are re-joining the workforce. Perhaps reflective of this, our data shows a year on year increase in the number of awards made as a result of accidents in the workplace. As the economy starts to grow again, and as businesses around the country begin to expand, it is important that a renewed focus on health and safety is cultivated.”

Ms. Byron continued “The onus is on us all – business owners, sole traders, and employees to promote and adhere to the highest levels of health and safety compliance.. Those driving for a living, or workers commuting long distances, should heed the advice of agencies such as the Road Safety Authority. As the economy grows, the health and well-being of workers needs to be at the fore to mitigate the social and economic cost of accidents in the workplace.”

Hearing Impaired Employees Receive Poor Medical Care According to Study

Posted: January 22nd, 2014

A report produced by Trinity College´s Centre for Deaf Studies has shown that hearing impaired employees receive poor medical care after an accident at work compared to injured workers with normal hearing.

The report was prepared by Professor Lorraine Leeson as part of the EU-funded “Medisigns” project, which aims to improve communications between patients, sign language interpreters and medical professionals.

Although not exclusive to hearing impaired employees, the report – “Critical Care Required: Access to Interpreted Healthcare in Ireland” – revealed that patients with hearing difficulties are more likely to be victims of medical negligence.

The report cited several examples of incidents that have occurred recently in Irish hospitals due to a lack of communication between medical professionals and hearing impaired patients:

  • One deaf patient tragically died as he tried to walk home from a Galway hospital to his home in Clifden – a distance of 50 miles.
  • Another hearing impaired patient attended his local hospital with a finger injury and was subsequently prepped for heart surgery.
  • A third example concerned a deaf woman who did not sleep for three nights after surgery because she was unable to communicate that she was cold.

The research also showed that hearing impaired employees receive poor medical treatment because hospitals do not always have the resources to attend to deaf patients – with one case study revealing that emergency department staff had to call on the skills of a hospitalised child who understood sign language to act as an interpreter in an emergency scenario.

A Health Service Executive (HSE) spokesperson who commented on the findings of the report said that hospital patients who are hearing impaired or deaf “have a right” to have somebody capable of signing medical terms and treatments present at healthcare appointments; and the health care provider (hospital, GP, outpatient´s clinic) must allocate the resources to attend appropriately to deaf patients.

Providing a sign language interpreter is often possible when appointments are made in advance, and that often injured workers who are hard of hearing are able to bring a signer with them; however hearing impaired employees may receive poor medical care if they are involved in a serious accident at work and no signing friend or family member is available to accompany them to hospital.

Professor Leeson argues in her report that a shortage of resources is no excuse for hearing impaired employees to receive poor medical care. She said:

“At the end of the line it is [the hospital´s] responsibility to make sure that they are gaining informed consent from their patients and to ensure that their patients understand. What we are finding is that patients are saying that they absolutely do not understand what is happening.”

She added that neglecting to provide the services of a sign language interpreter could have grave repercussions for both the patient and the hospital who failed in their duty of care: “what [would be] the cost if the hospital was found to be liable for not actually clearly communicating with their patients and there are consequences arising from that”.

Footnote: If you or somebody close to you is deaf, and has suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to poor medical care, we understand that it may not be possible for you to use our free telephone advice service. We would therefore recommend that you complete the text box on our contact page with an email address at which we may write to you.

HSA Comment on Claims for Slips and Falls at Work

Posted: November 6th, 2013

The Chief Executive of the HSA has commented on the number of claims for slips and falls at work following the publication of workplace accident statistics by the Injuries Board.

The statistics were published to coincide with the 2013 European Week for Safety and Health at Work and showed that, although the number of accepted Injuries Board assessments of claims for slips and falls at work had declined slightly from 2012, they still represented one third of all claims for injuries at work.

Martin O´Halloran – Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority – urged employers “to take some time this week to consider the safety systems they have in place and make sure not to leave anything to chance” and referred to research in which it was shown that employees take less care than they should in the workplace because of the employer´s responsibility to prevent injuries due to slips and trips.

Claiming that part of the problem is that the dangers of slips and falls at work are underestimated, Mr O´Halloran revealed that a quarter of all workplaces inspected by the Health and Safety Authority last year had not carried out a risk assessment to identify the dangers of slips and falls in the workplace. This was particularly alarming as two of the largest settlements of compensation for slips and falls at work involved fatalities.

Eight hundred and seven Injuries Board assessments of compensation for injuries at work were accepted in 2012, amounting to €22 million (1), with the average value of an accepted assessment being €27,286 and male workers in the 25 to 34 year age group more likely to suffer an injury due to their employer´s negligence. One-in-five of the accepted assessments of claims for slips and falls at work concerned injuries which resulted in the plaintiff being absent from work for one month or more.

(1) In 2012, less than one-third of personal injury claims submitted to the Injuries Board for assessment were settled through the Injuries Board process – indicating that the total number of claims for slips and falls at work could well exceed 2,000.

Pallet Accident Compensation for Slip Awarded to Women

Posted: December 20th, 2012

A woman, who suffered soft tissue damage to both ankles in a loading bay accident, is to receive €37.000 in pallet accident compensation for a slip at work.

Katrin Weiss was employed as an Operations Manager for a window frame and door manufacturer Bereco Ltd when her accident happened early last year.

While she was covering for a colleague who was absent through illness, Katrin ensuring that a delivery was dispatched on time. Most of the packed pallets for delivery had been loaded onto the truck, but a number of bundles of handles and frames remained to be shipped.

As she was reaching for these, Katrin had to walk over another pallet. The other palled had its edges concealed by a sheet of plywood and, as Katrin made her way back down, she slipped on the edge of the pallet and fell – badly injuring one ankle and suffering severe ligament damage in the other.

Katrin was taken to the hospital where medical staff fixed two screws into her ankle to try and stabilise the ankle injury. Despite this, the ligaments failed to heal and Katrin had to undergo two further operations before a metal frame was implanted into her foot in December 2011 to make her mobility easier.

After seeking legal advice, Katrin filed a claim for pallet accident injury compensation for a slip on a pallet at work, claiming that in addition to her injury she had been inflicted with a five-and-a-half-inch scar on her leg, had suffered a serious loss of amenity during her recovery and had been unable to return to work for fifteen months after the accident. There is also a strong chance that Katrin will suffer a degenerative form of arthritis in the future.

Katrin claimed in her legal action that her employers had been behaved in a negligent manner by not providing her with any safety training relating to how to load the lorry properly and that she was not made aware of any risks linked with the task she had been asked to perform.

Bereco Ltd accepted their liability for Katrin’s injuries after an investigation internally and a settlement was agreed out of court in which Bereco Ltd would pay Katrin €37,000 in palled accident compensation for her slip.

Scottish Workplace Injury Claims Increase by 24 Percent

Posted: November 5th, 2012

Figures published by the Department of Work and Pensions compensation recovery unit have indicated that workplace injury claims in Scotland increased by almost a quarter in the twelve months to March 2012.

6,191 personal injury compensation claims were recorded by the Department of Work and Pensions during the year, as opposed to 4,955 throughout the previous twelve months and in spite of workplace accidents in Scotland reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) declining by almost 7 percent in the same period.

The percentage increase in workplace injury compensation claims in Scotland is six times that recorded in England and Wales and, according to a leading Scottish solicitor, could increase still further. Fear of losing their job and not getting another one – particularly in the current economic climate – may have held workers back from making compensation claims in the past he claimed but “given the preponderance of employment in agriculture and construction, plus the significant rates of accidents in this country, we would expect a lot more claims.”

Commenting on the increase of almost 50 percent in workplace deaths in Scotland, Alistair McNab – HSE head of operations in Scotland – stated: “While there has been a welcome drop in injury and ill-health in Scotland, the increase in workplace deaths proves that there is no room for complacency. It is important that efforts are concentrated on managing the risks that lead to serious harm in workplaces throughout Scotland. It is unacceptable that Scottish workers are still failing to come home from work safe”.

There are two significant factors which should be considered when comparing the number of injuries reported to the HSE against the number of workplace injury claims in Scotland. First, as unemployment continues to increasse in Scotland, the percentage decrease in workplace accidents in Scotland is much lower if measured in injuries per 100 employees.

Secondly, only reportable injuries under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) are registered by the HSE. If an employer does not inform the HSE of an incident – or it does not qualify under RIDDOR regulations – that accident and injury is not considered in the annual report.

Mesothelioma Cancer Compensation for BT Engineer

Posted: December 5th, 2011

A judge at Bristol High Court has awarded an interim payment of mesothelioma cancer compensation for BT Engineer who had worked for the telecommunications giant for 27 years.

Frederick Vincent (76) from Dorset was awarded the five-figure sum as an interim payment to provide him with the private care he requires immediately, pending a full settlement of BT engineer mesothelioma compensation still to be determined.

The court heard how Frederick worked as an engineer for BT between 1962 and 1989 and regularly came into contact with asbestos while working in telephone exchanges in Devon where he had to drill through asbestos insulation boards to gain access to telephone wires.

Frederick also explained that he worked in close proximity to asbestos-lagged pipe work and his exposure to asbestos had been a factor in his developing mesothelioma cancer – a diagnosis he received on his fiftieth wedding anniversary earlier this year.

The judge found against BT for negligently exposing their employee to asbestos dust and awarded the interim payment of mesothelioma cancer compensation for BT Engineer. The money will enable Frederick to pay for private nursing care and equipment to aid him through the final stages of his illness, and also to purchase a car in order that Frederick´s wife – Jean – can drive him to medical appointments.

Update February 2012: Sadly, Frederick passed away due to malignant mesothelioma cancer on January 31.

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