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Accidents at work and personal injury

Just been injured?

As an RCN member you’re eligible for legal advice and representation for injuries sustained due to the fault of someone else. Whether a workplace injury or not, we can help you obtain 100% of your compensation. The service is completely free to members, regardless of whether the claim is successful.

We can also help your family and friends if they’ve suffered injury through no fault of their own.

Immediately following an accident you should:

  • report the accident to your line manager or immediate superior
  • seek medical advice where appropriate ensuring your medical record states where the accident happened 
  • if on premises, complete an accident form as soon as possible after the accident
  • if at work, report the accident in the accident book providing as much detail as possible - if you believe that unsustainable pressures within the workplace were a factor, please state this
  • take contact details of all witnesses where possible 
  • if possible take photographs or make a sketch of the area including any relevant hazards, for example, faulty equipment or slippery surfaces
  • take the details of the type and serial numbers of any relevant equipment
  • do not apologise or accept blame or responsibility for what happened. 

After the accident you should:

  • if the accident happened at work, keep in touch with your employer and inform them of your progress if you had to take time off work
  • keep a diary of your treatment, investigation or any medical consultation and any receipts for medication/treatment
  • document your progress and keep copies of any documentation you receive
  • keep any receipts for expenses arising out of the injury for example. prescriptions or taxis.

Serious accidents at work

A serious accident should be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or HSENI.

If you are in any doubt that your employer has done so, you can contact them independently. More information is available in our health and safety concerns and prioritising personal safety guides. 

We recommend that you complete the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) form BI100A (Registration of an industrial injury) to register the illness, incident or accident. Also see our section below on finances following an injury at work.

Use form BI100PD to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit for a disease caused by work. 

The injuries you suffer could be the result of a one-off accident/incident, or because of an ongoing situation for example, unsustainable pressures due to staffing levels/increased demand for the service. Below are examples of specific types of workplace injury: 

Work-related stress 

If you feel you are suffering from work-related stress, contact us for advice. You can also benefit from speaking to us about peer support or our counselling service. Personal injury claims for psychiatric injury are hard to prove and may not lead to a successful conclusion. All avenues should be explored if you or your colleagues are experiencing occupational stress.

See our resources on managing stress.

Repetitive strain injury/upper limb disorders

These affect the joints, muscles, nerves and tendons of the hands, arms and legs. They can be caused by: 
  • a physical overload from repeated use of the hands or limbs 
  • application of repeated pressure, and/or 
  • maintenance of a rigid or awkward posture. 

You may be able to bring a claim if you can show:

  • that there was a foreseeable risk of a clinical condition, and
  • that the employer failed in their duty to warn and educate the workforce.
Your employer should also try to prevent or minimise the risk of injury, including:
  • reorganising the system of work
  • rotating staff
  • allowing more frequent breaks
  • having appropriately designed work stations, or
  • instructing on posture and use of equipment.

Criminal assault

Please visit our guidance on violence in the workplace and the section below on making a claim for criminal injuries compensation.

Sharps/needle stick injury

You may have a claim if you can show your employer was to blame. To establish negligence, you will have to consider whether your employer provided:
  • a safe system of working 
  • a safe place of work, and/or 
  • safe and suitable equipment.
The following points may be particularly important: 
  • did your employer have a policy on the use and/or disposal of sharps? 
  • was the policy communicated? 
  • was it observed and followed in practice? 
  • was the practice monitored and/or inspected?

Making a claim for compensation

You may be able to claim compensation for injury if your employer or a third party were to blame for the accident. For example, your employer may be negligent (meaning that they failed in their duty of care to you) if they:

  • provided unsafe equipment
  • provided an unsafe place of work
  • provided an unsafe system of work
  • provided inadequate or no training or updating
  • provided inadequate or no supervision, and/or
  • failed to carry out risk assessments.

In addition, your employer may be found to be vicariously liable for the actions or failures of your co-workers, if that is relevant to your case.

You will need legal advice if you are considering making a claim and it is vital that you access advice as soon as possible after the incident. You have three years from the date of the injury/accident to begin court proceedings. If you are making a claim for work related stress, you have three years from the date that the stress began. Please be aware it can take six months of preparatory work before a solicitor can start court proceedings on your behalf. It is important to seek advice as soon as possible after the incident to ensure there is sufficient time to prepare your case before the deadline.

If you think that you have a claim for personal injury compensation then we may be able to help. We can also offer support for non-work related claims (excluding medical negligence).

If you're an RCN member please contact us. If you are a friend or part of the family of a member you can, you can find out more about making a claim.

It is vital that you do not delay making a personal injury compensation claim.

Personal injury claims assessed as having a greater than 50 percent chance of success will be supported.

Please be aware that if you instruct a private solicitor, the RCN will not take over that case at a later date. Also, the RCN will not reimburse the cost of using external solicitors.

In order for us to provide the best support, you will need to:

  • attend any medical examinations both for your side and the other side
  • attend any conference/meeting with your legal representatives
  • attend any court hearing and give evidence if your case fails to settle (the majority of cases do settle before the trial begins)
  • allow access to your medical records and personnel file
  • share all relevant information
  • be open, honest and not mislead anyone
  • provide relevant documents (defendants have the right to see any non 'privileged' documents including applications for retraining or new jobs, pay slips and P60s and receipts for any items of expenditure)
  • keep a diary of related expenses, pain and suffering and any additional problems
  • recognise your duty to mitigate (reduce) your loss, by obtaining alternative work if you can and/or retraining.


The RCN has entered into an agreement with RCN Law to provide legal services to its members under an agreement called a Collective Conditional Fee Agreement (CCFA). This is known as a “no win, no fee” agreement as if you win your case, you will not be charged as the other side will pay your costs.  

How much will this cost?

In short, nothing. The CCFA/the RCN will cover any fees you incur in making your claim provided that you comply with RCN Law’s terms of business and the conditions for representation by the RCN.  

What do I pay if you lose?

If you lose your case, you will be ordered to pay your opponent’s charges and disbursements.  The RCN may pay them for you if you meet our conditions of representation and comply with RCN Law’s terms of business.  Legal expenses insurance may be sourced at no personal cost to you to limit your personal exposure to such costs when making your claim if this is considered to be appropriate.  

Will I ever pay any fees under this agreement?

The short answer to this question is no, but this is dependent upon you complying with the terms of business and conditions of representation.  There are times when you could become personally liable for legal costs and these include circumstances where you:

  • act contrary to advice
  • fail to provide instructions and/or respond despite repeated requests
  • fail to beat and/or significantly better a Part 36 offer
  • act fraudulently, provide incorrect or misleading information or your claim is dismissed by the court on the grounds of fundamental dishonesty
  • you ask us to work in a way which is contrary to our rules of professional conduct or our duty to the court, or
  • if you cease to instruct us and we are unable to obtain an undertaking from another firm of solicitors to reclaim our costs. 

Provided you do not act fraudulently and are honest and truthful in providing your timely instructions, you are unlikely to become personally liable for legal costs.  

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)

You may be entitled to compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) if you were injured in England, Scotland or Wales. The equivalent in Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (for more detail please see the nidirect website).

Please note:

  • there is a two-year limit for CICA claims
  • all applicants must report the assault to the police immediately after the event (a report to the employer will not suffice). 

We may be able to assist with a claim, please contact us for more information.

Sick pay

For information on sick pay please see our sickness guide.

If you experience financial difficulty, contact us. We can put you in touch with specialist advisers who can offer support and guidance. They can provide advice about your state benefit entitlements and debt management. Find out more about our Welfare service here.

State benefits

You may be able to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement benefit. Please complete the DWP form BI100A for accidents and DWP form BI100PD for diseases. These are available at (in Great Britain) or nidirect (Northern Ireland).

You must submit a claim within two months of your accident.

The benefit will not be paid for the first 15 weeks (90 days, not including Sundays) after your accident.

Please see our guide on Industrial Injuries Disablement benefit for further information. 

Personal injury claim interim payments

During your personal injury claim, it may be possible to get an 'interim payment'. This will only occur if the court believes that you are likely to be successful at trial and awarded substantial damages. Your legal adviser can tell you more about this.

NHS Injury Allowance

NHS Injury Allowance can protect the earnings of NHS employees whose pay is reduced following injury or illness caused by work. We also have a guide on NHS injury allowance. It is important that you check your eligibility on this as it covers staff within the NHS under the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook or where the injury allowance is provided for in your employment contract.

NHS Ill health retirement 

If you work in the NHS and are unable to return to work because of long-term ill-health please read our advice on NHS Ill health retirement.

Sick leave and sick pay

Learn about your sick pay entitlements, prepare for review meetings and find ways to deal with work-related stress.

Working time, health and safety

Find out more about health and safety at work.

Page last updated - 03/07/2024