What do I need to prove to make a work accident claim?

Man with multiple work injuries

If you have been injured in an accident at work, or become ill as a result of your working conditions, you may have a right to claim compensation. To successfully make a work accident claim, you must demonstrate specific criteria to establish the basis of your case.

What you will need to prove

To make a successful work accident claim, you will need to prove:

  • You were injured or became ill due to your work
  • Your employer was legally responsible for your injury or illness
  • Your accident happened less than three years ago (or your illness was diagnosed as work-related less than three years ago)

However, you are not expected to prove all this yourself, before starting a claim. If you have been injured or made ill and you believe your work is responsible, you should contact a solicitor to discuss your options.

Read more:

Work accident compensation claims

What is the definition of a work accident?

For the purposes of making an injury claim, a work accident is any accident or incident that occurred during the course of your employment.

As a general rule, if you were injured performing your job, or on company premises, your accident is likely to be considered work-related. This could include accidents that happen:

  • During working hours.
  • Anywhere on company premises, including common areas, kitchens, outdoor spaces and car parks.
  • Offsite during work, such as attending meetings at other premises, and during any job that is mostly or entirely offsite, such as landscaping or in-person sales.
  • At work events like offsite training, conferences and team building.
  • During in-hours breaks.
  • While working from home.

There is considerable case law settling what is and is not considered ‘during the course of your employment’, and determining what incidents an employer is and is not responsible for.

Landmark cases like Majrowski v Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust (2006) and Mohamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets plc (2016) have established that employers are usually liable for their employees’ conduct, even if that conduct is outside of their normal job role, and even if an employee’s conduct is criminal.

Examples of what is not usually considered an ‘at work’ activity include:

  • Commuting to and from work (although an accident while travelling during work hours might be covered).
  • Voluntary social work or recreation sponsored by your employer, such as a charity fun run or five-a-side tournament.
  • Personal errands (even if the errand is approved by a manager, takes place during work hours or using a company vehicle).
  • Your own misconduct, such as a prank or a fight at work that you started. You will usually be eligible to claim for injuries arising from another employee’s misconduct, however.
  • Working under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

More generally, any activity that is wholly unconnected with your work, and unforeseeable by your employer, is likely to be exempt. The exceptions listed above may or may not apply to your claim, depending on the nature of your job and what caused your injury or illness. Your solicitor will be able to advise you further.

Read more:

Can I make a homeworking accident claim?

What are the eligibility criteria for making a work accident claim?

Provided that you are an employee, and you were harmed at work, and your employer is liable for the harm you suffered, you will usually be entitled to claim compensation.

You can claim for an accident on your very first day of work, or if you are no longer working for the company that caused your accident. You can usually still claim if your employer has gone bust.

You may be able to claim compensation if you were injured as a temp or agency worker, or as a self-employed contractor.

Read more:

Do I have to be an employee to make a work injury claim?

Can I claim compensation as a self-employed worker

You have three years to claim compensation from the date of your accident, or the date you learned your injury or illness was related to your work. This means that you can claim if your ill health was caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals many years ago, provided that you only learned of the connection in the last three years. This is referred to as the ‘date of knowledge’.

You also have longer to claim if you were injured while working under the age of 18.

Starting your claim sooner may improve your chances of making a successful claim, and some solicitors will not take on your claim if it is close to the three-year time limit.

How do I prove my employer was responsible?

Under UK law, all employers owe a duty of care to their staff, and must take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of their workforce.

To prove your employer was responsible, or liable, for the harm you have suffered, your solicitor must prove that your employer breached their duty of care towards you, and that this breach caused the harm. Your employer could have breached their duty of care as a result of:

  • The company’s negligence, for example failing to implement proper health and safety procedures, inadequate training, or failing to provide suitable PPE
  • A manager or co-workers actions, such as asking you to perform a dangerous task outside your usual job role, or failing to provide adequate supervision
  • Otherwise exposing you to an avoidable hazard, or failing to take reasonable steps to protect you from harm

For an injury at work

The process for proving an employer (or ex-employer) is responsible for an accident at work is usually straightforward. Your solicitor will arrange for a medical report and gather other evidence, like a copy of the accident book report.

Read more:

What evidence do I need to make an injury claim?

For work-related illness or occupational disease

Proving an employer is responsible for a work-related illness can be more difficult. Your solicitor will arrange for a medical assessment, which will help to prove that your illness was likely caused by your working conditions.

Some occupational diseases have a very strong relationship with certain working environments and job roles, such as silicosis and mining, construction and manufacturing, or mesothelioma and working with asbestos.

For some conditions, like RSI or hearing loss, the relationship between your work and your illness may be less obvious. Your solicitor will need to prove that your ill health was more than likely caused by long-term work circumstances. You do not have to determine this before you start a claim, and your solicitor will work with you to gather the evidence required to support your claim.

Read more:

Work-related illness compensation claims

Can I still claim if I can’t prove who is legally responsible?

Yes. In some cases, it may not be immediately obvious who is legally liable for your injuries. For example:

  • Working at premises owned or operated by another company, e.g. as a cleaner, sales trainer or caterer
  • Working on public property, such as a park or on the high street
  • You were self-employed, or working as a temp
  • You were injured by a member of the public, or an employee from another company

Your solicitor will investigate the circumstances of your case, and identify who is legally responsible for your injury.

How do I prove my work accident happened in the last 3 years?

Many solicitors are reluctant to take on cases that may be close to the three-year time limit. If you are unsure of exactly when your accident happened, and did not seek medical help at the time, there should still be a record of the incident in the company accident book.

If you think you may be close to the time limit, the sooner you contact a solicitor, the better. They may be able to recommend other ways you can determine when your accident happened, and will be able to advise you further.

Read more:

Am I eligible to make a personal injury claim?

How do I start my work accident claim?

The first step is to contact a solicitor for a FREE initial claim assessment.

You can find out if you have a claim in minutes by speaking to a legally trained advisor on 0800 376 1001. Your solicitor will put no pressure on you to proceed with a claim.

If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee work accident claim, we are open:

Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 9:30am-5pm

Alternatively, you can arrange a call back from a friendly, legally-trained advisor:

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Chris Salmon, Director

Chris Salmon, Director