Back injuries and other work-related musculoskeletal disorders are sadly a common occurrence at many workplaces across the UK.
According to the Labour Force Survey (LFS) there were 480,000 workers suffering from these new or long-standing problems in the year 2019/20, of which 176,000 specifically affected the back (37%). The same survey also recorded that a whopping 8.9 million working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders over the same period.
These types of injuries can be responsible for particularly long absences from the workplace, depending on the severity of the damage.
All workplaces should have measures in place to ensure their employees are able to carry out their duties without coming to harm. However, should an accident occur that leads to an injury, and it wasn’t your fault, it is your right to seek compensation against those who are liable.
So, if this has happened to you and you wish to seek compensation, this guide will help to show you how to proceed.
1 What Are The Most Common Causes For A Back Injury At Work?
There are many factors responsible for back injuries in the workplace and the most common are:
- Strenuous or repetitive tasks such as manual packing
- Regularly carrying and lifting heavy loads or objects
- Falls, slips or trips which occur at work
- Driving long distance or repeatedly over uneven and rough road terrains with uncomfortable seats
- Getting hit by a falling object
- Carrying or lifting a load or object in an awkward manner (e.g moving an uneven load or carrying it one-handed)
- Broken or unsuitable chairs with insufficient back support
- Intense and heavy manual labour tasks
- Problems with posture, such as bending over whilst working on a computer or a production/assembly line etc
Note that some of the above causes may not seem that serious, but they can lead to chronic back pain if they happen continually, so it is always advisable to seek help as soon as you can.
2 What Are The Symptoms Of A Back Injury?
Symptoms relating to a back injury can differ in severity and duration, but if you experience any of the following symptoms you could be at risk of or already suffering from a chronic back injury.
- Inability to control your bladder
- Difficulty with breathing
- Changes in sexual function or outright loss
- Changes or loss of sensation in your back, i.e. the inability to feel touch or register hot or cold
- A stinging sensation or chronic pain because of damage to the nerves
- Exaggerated spasming of the muscles or reflexes
- Some loss of mobility in the back or areas around it, such as the neck or arms
The above symptoms should be reviewed and treated as soon as possible. However, there are certain symptoms that need immediate medical attention and they include:
- A twisted back or neck
- Numbness and tingling in the appendages, i.e. toes and feet, or fingers and hands
- Inability to properly balance or coordinate whilst walking
- Extreme pain or pressure in the back, or around the neck and head
- Total loss of bladder or bowel control
- Partial or total paralysis, loss of coordination or significant weakness in the body
3 What Are The Types Of Back Injury I Can Make A Claim For?
There are various types of back injury that you can seek compensation for and they include the following:
- Soft tissue damage
- Paralysis or Paraplegia
- Ligament damage
- Prolapsed disc (Slipped disc)
- Tendon damage
4 Can I Hold My Employer Responsible For My Back Injury?
It is your employer’s responsibility to ensure that you are able to carry out your work in a safe environment.
According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers are required to provide the necessary supervision, training and protective work gear needed for their employees to carry out their job effectively and safely.
So, if your workplace runs afoul of these regulations and their failure to adhere to them caused your injury, then your employer can be held liable.
However, if your back injury at work was caused by your refusal to follow the prescribed safety procedures, you cannot file a claim.
5 What Can I Make A Claim For?
The type of injury you sustained will determine what type of claim you can file for. In any case, your compensation claim will typically include the following:
1 General Damages
This covers the physical and mental effects the injury has had on your life, which cannot be simply calculated. For instance, this aims to compensate the victim for the pain, suffering, and loss of amenity (enjoyment or quality of life) caused by your back injury.
2 Special Damages
In contrast to general damages, special damages cover the injury-related financial expenses you had to pay, leaving you out-of-pocket.
It also covers the financial losses incurred because of the injury. Usually, special damages include:
- Loss of earnings (both present and future)
- Travel expenses
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Caregiver expenses
- Home or car adaptation expenses
6 What Should I Do To File For Compensation?
There are steps you must take to kick-start your compensation claim and they are given as follows:
1 Notify Your Employer
It is important that your company has a record of the incident and the injury received as a result of it. These details should be entered in the company’s accident report logbook or computer system. Ask for a copy of the entry and make sure it accurately describes what actually happened.
2 Get A Medical Evaluation
The next thing you should do is get a medical examination. Meet with your doctor to ascertain the extent of your injury, its severity, its long-term prognosis and the likely effect on your quality of life. Your reflexes and sensory functions should also be tested, to check for any spinal damage.
A doctor’s report is a weighty piece of evidence that can positively influence your claim, so take advantage of it. Also, ensure you take pictures if there are visible injuries and add them to the report. Bruising can take a few days to fully develop, so take more photos and date them, if necessary.
3 Collate Evidence
To make a claim, you also need a report from people who witnessed the incident that caused your back injury.
Ask them to send you an email describing their perception of the incident. Also, write down their contact details so you can easily reach them in case their presence is needed in court.
When your total compensation pay-out is being calculated, the special damages portion should refund all the expenses that you incurred as a direct result of your back injury.
Such expenses could cover things like purchasing chairs that give extra back support, travelling costs to and from doctor/hospital/physio appointments or even medication for pain relief.
However, if you don’t keep records of these expenses, it may not be possible to compensate you for them. So, remember to file all invoices, receipts, and similar records in a safe place.
5 Prove The Negligence Of Your Employer
To hold your employer liable for your injury, you will have to prove that their negligence directly caused it. This could be in the form of a record that shows you were not provided with the correct protective equipment or properly trained to safely carry out your duties.
Also, if concerns have previously been raised to your employer about such hazards and they chose to ignore them, write down the full details and get copies of any records or corroborative records that could support this.
Copy this report, if available, and present it as evidence.
6 Seek Legal Advice
Getting in touch with a claims advisor or solicitor before making your compensation claim could greatly assist you and help to compile an effective case. A lawyer can review your medical report and the gathered evidence to determine if you have a solid and valid case.
It is important that you seek assistance from solicitors experienced in work-related injury cases such as this, so they can ensure you receive the maximum compensation you deserve.
7 How Much Should I Expect As Compensation For My Back Injury At Work?
It is difficult to give an exact compensation amount because all injury claims are handled on a case-by-case basis and depend largely on the severity of the back injury. However, based on previous settlements, the following estimates may give you an idea. Important: These are not guaranteed amounts and your individual case may result in higher or lower settlement figures.
1 Mild Injury
The back injury is said to be mild if it includes any type of muscle pain, a slipped disc or damage to the soft tissue. Compensation amounts can be as high as £10,670, depending on the details.
2 Moderate To Severe Injury
This category includes injuries that result in constant discomfort and/or pain, and damage to the back’s soft tissue or ligaments. Generally speaking, compensation could range from £10,670 – £33,080.
3 Severe Injury
This includes severe damage to the lower or upper back, leading to a life-changing injuries such as paralysis or significant problems in the body’s lower parts. Compensation for a severe back injury could be anywhere from £33,080 – £137,330.
8 Will My Employer Dismiss Me After I File For Compensation?
If your employer sacks you after you file for compensation, they will further be held responsible for breaching employment law and a solicitor can help you file an unfair dismissal claim against them.
In any case, you should not be concerned whether your employer would be able to afford your compensation settlement. Most companies operating in the UK have a mandatory insurance policy that will take care of such claims. You should concentrate on your recovery.
9 I Had A Previous Back Injury – Can I Still Make A Claim?
You may be able to seek compensation if your previous condition has been worsened by your current back injury. However, check with your solicitor first, as there are companies that won’t accept claims connected to a pre-existing injury.
10 I Cannot Afford A Solicitor – What Should I Do?
Your inability to afford a solicitor should not stop you from seeking legal advice and assistance to make a compensation claim if you have a valid case. Most law firms can offer clients a No Win-No Fee contract. In other words, you only have to pay your lawyer when you win your case.
Summary: Claiming For A Back Injury At Work
Back injuries can become serious and debilitating if left untreated. The time limit to file a claim like this is 3-years from when the injury first occurred (or 3-years from when you were first aware of the symptoms, if later). Thus, it is important that you file a claim for compensation as soon as you possibly can. Remember, providing that someone else is responsible for your injury and you can prove it, the law entitles you to seek a financial pay-out to compensate for your inconvenience, pain and monetary losses.