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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.

Woman Awarded Compensation for an Injury due to a Faulty Supermarket Trolley

Posted: September 25th, 2013

A woman who developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome after an accident in a supermarket has been awarded $9.9 million in compensation for an injury due to a faulty supermarket trolley.

Fifty-one year old Rose Nudelman had just finished shopping with her husband in the Brooklyn branch of the Costco Supermarket in New York, when the couple wheeled their loaded supermarket shopping trolley onto the ascending escalator between floors.

The tread on the supermarket escalator had been manufactured in such a way that customers did not have to retain hold of their trolleys to prevent them rolling back down the slope; however, while the couple were going up the escalator, Rose´s trolley rolled free from the tread and hit her on her wrist.

Although she did not believe at the time that she had been injured, Rose and her husband reported the accident to the management of the supermarket as soon as it happened. However, within a fortnight, Rose began to experience mobility problems which deteriorated to such an extent that she was only capable of hobbling around her home with the assistance of a walking stick.

Rose sought medical attention and, after an extensive series of examinations, doctors diagnosed her condition as the neurological injury “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome” – identifying its cause as nerve damage due to being struck by the shopping trolley. Thereafter Rose took legal advice from a solicitor, and made a claim for compensation for an injury due to a faulty supermarket trolley.

Costco Supermarket rejected the idea that her escalator accident was responsible for such a debilitating injury, and contended that she had exaggerated the level of her injury to justify a claim for compensation. However, Rose´s solicitor believed that his client had a genuine case and issued court proceedings.

Costco continued to deny their liability, but a jury in New York found in Rose´s favour and awarded her $9.9 million in compensation for an injury due to a faulty supermarket trolley. Costco´s insurers said that they would appeal the verdict and the amount of the award, but Rose´s solicitor countered that no amount of compensation would persuade anybody to exchange places with his client and her debilitating injury.

Shop Employee Thumb Injury Compensation Awarded

Posted: March 25th, 2013

A Dunnes Stores sales worker, who suffered lacerations to her thumb from broken glass while removing rubbish, has been awarded €6,050 in shop employee thumb injury compensation.

Boguslawa Dzienia (38) from Galway made her claim for shop assistant thumb injury compensation after sustaining her injury while helping to clear garbage in the drapery stock room at the Dunnes Store Westside in Galway.

Ms Boguslawa told the judge at the Circuit Civil Court that at the time the injury happened she was holding a plastic bag open while a co-worker was putting another rubbish bag inside of it. However, a shard of glass scraped the back of her thumb and she was cut.

The court was informed that Boguslawa had been rushed to Galway University Hospital, where her injury was x-rayed to ensure that there was no glass remaining in the wound, which was cleaned out and shut using glue.

However, Boguslawa had difficulty while writing and holding objects due to her injury and, after seeking legal guidance, she filed a claim for cut thumb at work compensation against her employers, Dunnes Stores.

Dunnes Stores refuted the allegations of  negligence and liability for her injuries and contested the claim for a worker thumb injury compensation on the grounds that the medical report had recorded a quarter of an inch laceration which required only minimal care.

On being advised that the cut had healed successfully, and the wound that remained could only be seen on very close inspection, Judge Deery awarded Boguslawa €6,050 in shop employee thumb injury compensation.

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.

Slip Injury Claim for Fall on Cruise Ship

Posted: April 18th, 2012

A woman, who slipped and broke her knee cap on a Carnival cruise ship, has been awarded almost €2.3m in a compensation claim for a slip injury on a cruise ship.

Denise Kaba from Florida was journeying on the Carnival Pride in August 2009, when she slipped and fell on the pool deck which had been treated with a resin that made it hard and slippery when wet.

As a result of her fall and slip, Denise suffered a fractured patella and had to undergo surgery six times to enable it to heal properly. It was also claimed in her compensation for slip on a cruise ship action at the U.S. District Court that she may have to have total knee replacements in the future.

Denise’s legal team claimed in court that Carnival were aware of previous injuries associated with slips on the pool deck since it had been treated, yet had done nothing to make the surface safer or warn travellers of the potential dangers.

In concurring with Denise that Carnival were responsible for her injuries, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungara awarded £1.9m in damages, consisting of more than £138,000 in past medical expenses, nearly £235,000 in future medical fees, just over £107,000 in loss of earning capacity, £126,000 for pain and suffering in the past and nearly £1.24m for future non-economic damages.

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