Though there is a lack of clear and relevant statistics concerning work injury compensation claims made in Ireland, annual figures released by the Injuries Board Ireland would suggest that there are approximately one thousand claims made each year. However, it is important to note that there is no way to distinguish between injuries caused by employer negligence and other accidents when looking at many of the statistics provided.
Despite the unclear data, one notable trend is the reduced number of fatal accidents at the workplace each year. This could be attributed to the general decline in what would have traditionally been the most dangerous industries – construction, fishing and agriculture – though recent improvements in health and safety practices have also helped the decline. However, in contrast to this positive trend, an increased number of sick days are being claimed by employees. There are many theories as to why this could be the case – employees may be more stressed, leading to stress-induced injuries, or the businesses may have lowered maintenance standards and put the health of their employees at stake.
Misconceptions Concerning Work Injury Compensation
Perhaps understandably, many people who have been injured whilst at work are hesitant to claim compensation lest it lead to unemployment, lack of job security or strained workplace relations. Ireland has established laws that protect employees from dismissal in such circumstances, though this can sometimes do mediate the worries of a confrontation in the workplace.
Additionally, though many employers will be compassionate to a degree and be concerned that someone has been injured whilst in their employ, they may be reluctant to allow any subsequent safety checks. Some victims may be concerned that they will bankrupt their employer or cause a pay-cut for other employees. However, should a claim result in a settlement, it will be paid by the employer’s public liability insurers, not the employer themselves.
Other Issues to Consider
Workplace compensation claims can differ substantially from other, more straightforward personal injury claims. One unique factor is the claimant’s employment status – many potential claimants believe that they are “employed” when his or her accident happens when in fact they are an agency worker, self-employed, sub-contracted or a relation of the employer. In 2009, thirty percent of “employed” claimants did not actually fall into that category. This does not affect the claimant’s right to compensation, though it does mean that they will likely be making a claim against someone other than the original plaintiff.
The employer may accuse their injured employee of contributory negligence, which again complicates the process of receiving compensation. The employer’s insurance company will probably approach the injured party with a settlement of compensation that will likely be inadequate for the injuries sustained, so it is important to consult with a solicitor before the settlement is considered.
Steps Involved in Receiving Compensation
It is important to consult a solicitor as soon as possible after an accident has occurred. This facilitates the early collection of evidence, including photographs of the workplace, engineering inspections, interviews with colleagues and medical examinations. This will help build a case, and it may transpire that other such injuries have happened before under similar conditions – which will help to prove the employer’s negligence.
In Ireland, it is rare that work injury cases will proceed to the courts as insurance companies usually wan to settle the claim quickly. If it is shown that the employer was completely at fault for the accident and injury, it will help the claimant’s solicitor negotiate a full and fair settlement of compensation. Though the cases are usually filed with the Injuries Board, it is rare that they will reach resolution through the body.
By law, it is up to the employer to provide a safe workplace for all of its employees, and failure to do so could lead to serious accidents and injuries. Though fatal accidents seem to be on a downward trend, an increasing number of Irish employees feel the need to take sick leave, which could be attributable to an unsafe workplace. If this is the case, and an employee wants to claim compensation, the employer will not have to pay any resulting settlement, and the claimant should not – by law – have to fear for their job security. However, these settlements are often negotiated through out-of-court agreements, and as such it is vitally important to contact a solicitor as soon as possible after an accident has occurred to help ensure a fair settlement.