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Accidents at work and personal injury

This guide for RCN members can help if you have suffered an accident at work and includes information on making a personal injury claim.

Overview and action points

Your employer has a duty to protect you and tell you about health and safety issues that affect you. They must also report certain accidents and incidents, pay you sick pay and give you time off because of an accident at work should you need it.

If you’ve experienced an accident at work, you may be physically hurt but also feeling anxious, particularly if you need time off work. Here is some practical advice to help you both in the immediate aftermath of an incident, and through your recovery.

General advice following an accident at work

Immediately following an accident you should:

  • report the accident to your line manager or immediate superior
  • seek medical advice where appropriate, ensureing your medical record states that the incident happened at work
  • complete an accident form as soon as possible after the incident
  • report the incident in the accident book at your workplace, providing as much detail as possible
  • take contact details of all witnesses where possible
  • if possible, take photographs or make a sketch of the area including any relevant hazards e.g. faulty equipment or slippery surfaces
  • take the details of the type and serial numbers of any relevant equipment, and
  • do not apologise or accept blame or responsibility for what happened.

After the accident you should:

  • keep in touch with your employer and inform them of your progress if you have had to take time off work
  • keep a diary of your treatment, investigations or any medical consultation
  • document your progress and keep copies of any documentation you receive
  • keep a record of any expenses incurred as a result of your injury
  • send your medical certificates/Fit Notes to your employer as soon as you receive them.

Serious accidents should be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or HSENI. If you doubt that your employer has done so, you can contact them yourself. Read more in our health and safety advice.

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.

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Specific workplace injuries

The injuries you suffer could be the result of a one-off accident/incident, or because of an ongoing situation. Here is some advice regarding specific types of workplace injury: 

Work-related stress 

If you feel you are suffering from work-related stress, call 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.

You could also explore the range of RCN resources on this topic, including our publications Stress and you: a guide for nursing staff and Working towards a healthy you. You could also find more about the RCN's Healthy Workplace, Healthy You campaign and our workplace health and safety initiatives.

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 see our advice on violence in the workplace.

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 incident. For example, your employer may be negligent (ie 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.
  • Furthermore, 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 starting 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; so seek advice as soon as possible after the incident to ensure there is sufficient time to prepare your case before the deadline.

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RCN help with making a personal injury claim

Personal injury claims

If you think that you have a claim for personal injury compensation then we may be able to help. Please call us on 0345 772 6100.

We can also offer support for non work related claims (excluding medical negligence).

It is vital that you do not delay making a personal injury compensation claim. 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; so contact us as soon as possible after the incident to ensure there is sufficient time to prepare your case before the deadline.

We will support personal injury claims that we assess to have a greater than 50 per cent chance of success.

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.

Help us to help you

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.

Costs

While you technically remain liable for your legal costs, we may fully indemnify you in respect of your liability to pay for legal advice and representation. This means you are covered against paying your costs for as long as we support your claim. This applies to the other side's costs as well as your own.

If you decide to withdraw from a case for any reason, despite being advised that you have a reasonable claim, we may require you to pay any wasted costs.

We may withdraw cover if:

  • your claim has no reasonable prospect of success
  • you have been made an offer that you should accept but you wish to continue with your claim
  • you are making unreasonable demands of RCN legal services in a way as would entitle a private firm to discontinue acting for you.

You will be given the option of taking the case over from then on at your own expense. In most cases you will become liable for all costs awarded to your opponents.

Further information on the terms of this cover will be sent to you should we agree to take on your case.

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 - call us on 0345 772 6100.

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Financial difficulties following an injury at work

Call us

If you experience financial difficulty, call 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 Gov.uk (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.

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.

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.


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Call the RCN on: 03457726100


Page last updated - 09/01/2018