If a needlestick injury has set you back, we'll help you move forward
A needlestick injury not only carries the stress of potential infection but can also lead to blood transmissible diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. If you've been injured due to clinical negligence or lax safety measures, compensation could support your preventive treatments and alleviate the anxiety of awaiting diagnosis.
You can make a compensation claim with the help and support of a personal injury solicitor.
In this article
You are not alone
A needlestick injury (sometimes called a percutaneous injury or sharps injury) is a wound caused by a hypodermic needle, syringe or other sharp implement or similar piece of medical equipment, accidentally puncturing the skin.
A 'sharp' can also refer to any medical equipment that could puncture the skin, including scalpels, lancets, scissors, pins, staples, clamps, razor blades and glass.
As well as causing bleeding, swelling and tenderness at the site of the puncture, sharps contaminated with an infected patient's blood can transmit over 20 diseases.
Although procedures are in place to help prevent needlestick injuries (also called sharps injuries), a recent report by Public Health England (PHE) warned that:
"healthcare workers continue to be at risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses through occupational sharps injuries".
A estimated 100,000 needlestick injuries are reported each year. The true number is likely to be far higher.
Over a 10 year period it is estimated that of the 4,830 significant exposures to healthcare workers:
- 30% involved a source patient with HIV,
- 54% with Hepatitis C and
- 9% with Hepatitis C.
If you decide to make a needlestick injury claim, your medical negligence solicitor will take you through every step of the claims process. Your solicitor will be with you until you win your claim and get the compensation you deserve.
Am I entitled to make a needlestick injury claim?
To claim compensation for needlestick injury, your solicitor must prove that:
- the care provided to you was below the acceptable standard, and
- this inadequate care resulted in your harm.
Find out online if you can claim with our injury claim calculator. Or you can call 0800 376 1001 to speak to a specialist advisor. Find out in minutes if you have a claim.
How long do I have to claim needlestick injury compensation?
You usually have 3 years to make a needlestick injury claim. The timelimit starts from the date you discovered you were injured by negligent care (the date of knowledge).
For injured children, a claim can be started by a parent or guardian at any time before the child turns 18. Thereafter, the injured individual has until their 21st birthday to make a claim on their own.
A breach of duty
A breach of duty ('negligence' or 'fault') means that the standard of care you received was below the standard that could reasonably be expected of a competent healthcare professional.
How much compensation can I claim for a needlestick injury?
The amount of money you could claim for your injury will depend on:
- the severity of your injury, and
- any financial losses or costs you have incurred.
At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your injuries have affected your life. Your solicitor will take these considerations into account to calculate the correct compensation award.
Get an accurate compensation estimate (including for multiple injuries), confirm your legal position, and check if you have a No Win, No Fee claim.
Updated December 2023
Compensation Calculator v3.04
General damages are awarded for Pain, Suffering and Loss of Amenity (PSLA).
Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.
Special damages is compensation for quantifiable financial losses you've incurred as a result of your needlestick injury. Compensation can include lost earnings, bonuses and overtime, and any additional expenses directly related to your injury.
These damages will also cover any medical or treatment bills, such as antibiotics, blood tests and psychological support.
How do needlestick injuries happen and who is most at risk?
Most needlestick injuries are preventable and they occur when needles and sharps are not correctly disposed of.
Despite hospitals having rigorous disposal procedures in place, healthcare workers are the main group at risk, due to the sheer number of hypodermic syringes and sharp instruments used.
65% of their injuries take place during clinical procedures in wards, A&E departments and operating theatres.
Hypodermic needles are sometimes discarded in public places, such as parks, public toilets and alleyways. Anyone coming into contact with used needles is at risk.
How can the risk of needlestick injury be reduced?
Managing the risk of needlestick injury will depend on the environment:
- Workers should be provided with appropriate training on the handling and disposal of needles where they may be at risk of contact.
- Where sharps bins are provided for the disposal of sharps these should always be used.
- Sharps bins should be emptied and replaced regularly to prevent over-filling.
- People working where there is a risk of coming into contact with discarded needles should be issued with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Discarded needles should never be held without adequate protection.
- Workers should never be expected to put their hands into places they cannot see, such as inside drains or in a pipe U bend.
Other preventative measures include the provision of disposal containers and night-time security by local councils in known problem areas.
Medical manufacturers are being urged to replace standard hypodermic needles with safer needles which retract or are destroyed after use.
What should I do if I'm injured by a needlestick?
Needlestick injuries can have serious consequences if untreated. Even if a needlestick injury inflicted by a medical professional is not itself negligent, failure to appropriately treat the injury may amount to negligence.
The following procedures should be carried out to reduce the risk of further injury:
- Encourage the wound to gently bleed, ideally holding it under running water
- Wash the wound using running water and plenty of soap, but do not scrub
- Do not suck the wound
- Dry the wound and cover with a waterproof plaster or dressing
- Seek urgent medical advice as medicines are available to help fight infection
It is likely that blood tests will be taken, with follow ups in 3, 6 and 12 months to allow viruses to show up on the tests.
The transmission of infection depends on a number of factors, including the person's natural immune system.
Although the number of injuries each year is high, only a small number cause infections leading to serious illness.
Get an impartial opinion
Assessing a medical negligence claim can be complicated. To get impartial advice on whether you have a claim, speak to an injury claim expert on 0800 376 1001.
A brief phone consultation with a medical negligence solicitor will let you know whether you have a potential claim and what your options are. Alternatively you can use our online claim checker:
How long do I have to start a claim?
If your injury is apparent immediately after medical treatment, you will have 3 years to start a claim.
It may be that the negligent procedure happened more than 3 years ago, but your injury was only diagnosed recently, within the last 3 years. If so, you may still be able to make a claim.
What if your injury was diagnosed months or years later?
You may not be immediately aware of your injury. In some cases, months and even years can pass before symptoms appear.
The law allows you to make a medical negligence claim up to three years after the 'date of knowledge' (when you first learned of the injury).
It is recommended that you start a claim as soon as possible, as medical negligence cases can be complex. Starting your claim sooner will give your solicitor more time to gather medical evidence, assess the extent of your injury and to negotiate interim payments and your final compensation amount.
What is the average injury compensation for an injury claim?
The Judicial College injury tables give a approximate idea of the average payout for different injuries.
However, the money you would receive following an injury will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.
Your injury compensation will be calculated based on the unique impact your injuries have had on your life and your ability to work, and on the actual financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries.
Needlestick injury case study
A 32-year-old woman was awarded compensation of £6,000 for a PTSD from a needlestick injury.
During the course of the claimant's employment as an ambulance technician, she was called to assist a patient who had collapsed at home. When she arrived she took a blood sample with a click pen device.
The device was defective and as she took the blood sample, her left index finger was cut. Immediately after, her colleague informed her that the patient was HIV positive.
The claimant was then taken to the hospital and, after being examined by a consultant, she was told that she had a 1 in 300 chance of developing AIDS as a result of the needlestick injury.
The doctor prescribed a course of treatment which involved taking 18 tablets per day for a one month period.
The medication had a catastrophic effect on her. She suffered significant side effects, one of which caused her to be admitted to the hospital and was unable to work for 3 weeks.
Her home life was seriously affected and she was not even able to kiss her partner or 2 small children.
These side effects lasted for 6 months during which time she suffered a lack of sleep from the stress. She became depressed and was prescribed anti-depressants.
After the 6 month period elapsed, a blood test revealed that she was clear of HIV/AIDS.
The medical expert who examined her for the court proceedings concluded that the psychological problems should resolve within 15 months, although she would remain vulnerable to stress for up to 5 years.
It was alleged that the Ambulance Service caused the psychological injury by providing her with defective medical equipment.
On receipt of the summons, the Ambulance Service denied liability and the case went to court. The judge found in the claimant's favour and awarded her £6,000 for Pain, Suffering and Loss of Amenity (PLSA).
Clinical negligence claims
Needlestick injuries are usually categorised as clinical negligence. Click on the icon below for more information.
How we can help you with your medical negligence claim
Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, and the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning medical negligence claims.
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About the author
Chris Salmon is a co-founder and Director of Quittance Legal Services. Chris has played key roles in the shaping and scaling of a number of legal services brands and is a regular commentator in the legal press.