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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.

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.”

Daughters Share Settlement of Mesothelioma Compensation Claim

Posted: November 18th, 2014

Two daughters of a former engineer, who died due to the inhalation of asbestos fibres, are to share the settlement of his mesothelioma compensation claim almost a year after he passed away.

Peter McCormack (73) from Whickham in Tyne and Wear died last December eighteen months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer – a cancer for which there is no cure that is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres and develops in the lining of the lungs.

Prior to his passing, Peter had commenced a mesothelioma compensation claim against two of his former employers – alleging that they had failed to protect him from exposure to asbestos. After he died, the legal action was pursued by Peter´s two daughters Elke and Natalie.

The mesothelioma compensation claim alleged that while Peter had been working as an apprentice and mechanical fitter for EON UK (1957 to 1962), he had been exposed to asbestos fibres while working alongside laggers whose job it was to mix and apply asbestos to new pipes and other fittings.

Peter had also worked at OSG Ship Management (formerly W A Souter Ltd – from 1965 to 1997,), where he repaired pipes containing asbestos lagging with no protection provided by his employer. It was also alleged that asbestos dust was prevalent within the working conditions, which was often disturbed and inhaled by OSG´s employees.

The mesothelioma compensation claim was eventually resolved without the need for a court hearing. A six-figure settlement of the claim was negotiated, after which Elke commented: “Hopefully, this settlement will highlight to employers the need to protect people from exposure to asbestos, so other families do not have to watch their loved ones deteriorate so quickly.”

She continued “My dad was always an extremely active man, spending his time mountaineering, walking and cycling, but after his diagnosis his health deteriorated rapidly and was unable to do the things he enjoyed so much. The diagnosis also caused him severe distress and anxiety for his future”.

Family´s Claim for Fatal Dumper Truck Accident Resolved at Court Hearing

Posted: August 5th, 2014

The family of a man, who died when a six tonne dumper truck overturned on a stud farm in County Kildare, has resolved its compensation claim for a fatal dumper truck accident after a hearing at the High Court.

Seamus Miley – a father-of-three from Dunlavin in County Wicklow – was killed on May 24th 2007 when the loaded six-tonne dumper truck he was driving overturned as Seamus descended a steep hill at the Ardenode Stud Farm in Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare.

When an investigation into the accident discovered that Seamus was not licensed to drive the vehicle, and that the roll bar in the dumper truck was defective, Seamus´ widow – Anne – made a claim for fatal dumper truck accident compensation on behalf of the family and a claim for nervous shock compensation due to the emotional trauma that she had suffered.

Seamus´ employers and several other companies connected with the design and supply of the dumper truck were named in Anne´s action alleging that the dumper truck was defective, that there was a failure to fit a roll over protective structure and to warn Seamus of the dangers of driving the truck.

The allegations were denied by each of the defendants, who argued that Seamus had been the architect of his own misfortune due to the manner in which he had driven the truck at excessive speed. The case proceeded to court, where it was scheduled to be heard by Ms Justice Mary Irvine.

However, before the hearing got underway, Judge Irvine was informed that the family had agreed to a settlement of their claim for fatal dumper truck accident amounting to €700,000 and that Anne had also resolved her claim for nervous shock compensation for €100,000. The judge approved the settlements, commenting she was sorry that the family had to come to court in such tragic circumstances.

Claim for Work Injury during Team Building Day Settled at Hearing

Posted: February 7th, 2014

A chef´s claim for a work injury during a team building day has been settled as a hearing into the employee´s injury compensation claim was getting underway at the Circuit Civil Court.

Cathal Kavanagh from Ongar in Dublin made his claim for a work injury during a team building day after breaking his wrist during an activity organised by his employer – the four star Carton House Spa and Golf Hotel in Maynooth, County Kildare – at the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge in October 2006.

Cathal (56) was employed by the hotel as an executive chef and, during the team building day, he and other managers from the hotel engaged in a series of activities intended to bond the team. One of activities was a relay race in which the participants had to hop forwards through the Arts Centre and then run backwards to pass the baton to the next team member.

During the race, Cathal slipped and fell and broke his wrist when he landed on the floor. After receiving medical attention and speaking with a solicitor, Cathal made a compensation claim for a work injury during the team building day against his employer, the Riverbank Arts Centre and the company that had organised the events – JikiJela Ltd of Tubbercurry, County Sligo.

Cathal claimed in his action that the three defendants had been responsible for his injury by failing to ensure that the activities were safe; however the three allegedly negligent parties denied their liability for Cathal´s broken wrist and the Injuries Board issued an Authorisation for Cathal to pursue his compensation claim for a work injury during the team building day at the Circuit Civil Court.

A hearing was scheduled and started before Ms Justice Mary Irvine. However, when re-convening after the lunch break on the first day of the hearing, Judge Irvine was informed that Cathal had settled his claim for an undisclosed amount and that the case could now be struck out.

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.

Injuries Board Acknowledges Trend in Forklift Accidents at Work

Posted: August 6th, 2013

Analysts at the Injuries Board have identified a trend in the increasing number of forklift accidents at work.

Writing for the Injuries Board web site, Stephen Watkins – Director of Corporate Services – highlighted the fact that 2012 showed an increase in the number of forklift accidents at work despite fewer work-related accident injury claims.

He stated that the Injuries Board had assessed 40 applications for forklift accident compensation in 2012 compared to 34 throughout 2011 even though the number of Injuries Board assessments for accidents had work had fallen from 820 in 2011 to 807 last year.

The nature of the forklift accidents at work varied greatly, and ranged from being rear-ended by another vehicle while operating a forklift to being hit by pallets falling from a forklift.

Fortunately the most serious accidents resulted in no more than broken limbs, although Mr Watkins was keen to point out that the transport and storage section has traditionally the third-highest mortality rate in the workplace behind construction and agriculture.

Injuries Board assessments which were accepted in 2012 amounted to €1.3 million – a similar figure to 2011 – and, according to Mr Watkins, the Injuries Board wanted to remind those responsible for safety in workplaces in which forklift trucks were in use not to become complacent.

Refuse Worker Awarded Compensation for Eye Injuries at Work

Posted: July 25th, 2013

A Dublin refuse worker, who was sprayed with burning oil when a cable on his refuse truck split, has been awarded compensation for eye injuries at work in the Circuit Civil Court.

 Kamil Kozlowski (30) from Part West Point in Dublin had been emptying refuse bins in Sandyford Road, Dublin, in July 2011, when a hydraulic cable on the back of the refuse truck burst, spraying hot oil into his eyes.

An ambulance was immediately summoned, and Kamil received first aid from the ambulance crew before being taken to the city´s Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital; where the oil was rinsed from his eyes and a course of eye drops was prescribed.

Kamil continued to experience pain in his left eye and suffer problems with his vision and, after receiving legal advice, made a claim for compensation for eye injuries at work against his employers – Panda Waste Services Ltd of Navan, County Meath.

Kamil´s employers admitted that they were responsible for the accident occurring, but the two parties could not reach an agreement over how much compensation for eye injuries at work Kamil should receive. Ultimately the case was presented to Judge Alison Lindsay at the Circuit Civil Court in Dublin.

After hearing the circumstances of Kamil´s eye injuries – and hearing that he believed at the time of the accident he may be permanently blinded – Judge Lindsay awarded Kamil €15,565 in compensation for eye injuries at work.

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