Can you make a work injury claim on behalf of someone else?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires all employers to protect the 'health, safety and welfare' at work of all their employees as far as is reasonably practicable. This includes agency workers and temps, casual workers and self-employed contractors as well as others on their premises such as clients, visitors and the general public.

If a person sustains an injury in the workplace it may be possible to bring a claim for compensation if it can be demonstrated that the employer was liable for the accident.

In some circumstances the injured party may not be able to make the claim himself and may need someone to claim on his behalf.

These include:

  • If the injured employee was under the age of 18
  • If the employee was so incapacitated he or she was unable to bring the claim on their own behalf
  • If the injuries sustained were fatal

Claiming for a person under 18

As a minor, a person under 18 years old may not bring a claim to court. Instead, the claim can be made by parent or guardian, known as the injured party's 'Litigation Friend'.

The Litigation Friend will act in the best interests of the young person to ensure that all the circumstances surrounding the injury are communicated to the appointed solicitor.

For example, if the young person was injured through an accident whilst operating a warehouse equipment, as well as understanding the injuries sustained, the reasons for the accident would need to be established.

These may include:

  • What actually happened and who was involved?
  • Was there a fault with the equipment?
  • Had proper driver training and assessment been carried out?
  • Were all employees made fully aware of the risks present in the warehouse and when operating the equipment?

In most cases, injury claims should be brought within three years of the date of an accident.

However, the claimant may wish to wait until he or she is 18 so that they may bring the claim themselves. Where this is the case the three-year limitation period starts on the claimant's 18th birthday, meaning the claim must be brought to Court before their 21st birthday.

Claiming for a person who is incapacitated

The injuries sustained in a workplace accident may be so severe that they prevent the claimant from making a claim, or else the claimant may have had pre-existing health issues that affect their ability to claim.

In such cases, a Litigation Friend may be appointed to make the claim on behalf of the injured person. In such cases, the injured claimant is known as the 'Protected Party'.

The Court may appoint anyone to be a Litigation Friend, for example:

  • A parent or guardian or a family member or friend
  • A solicitor or professional advocate, e.g. an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)
  • A Court of Protection deputy - if the Protected Party lacks mental capacity to make their own decisions, for instance if they have sustained a brain injury through falling from a height at work.
  • Someone who has a lasting or enduring power of attorney

The Court will check the suitability of the Litigation Friend to ensure his interests do not conflict with those of the Protected Party and that he can make decisions in a competent and fair way.

Where there is no suitable Litigation Friend, the Court may appoint someone to act on the injured person's behalf.

Whoever is appointed as the Litigation Friend is responsible for making decisions regarding the claim, however the Court will approve any settlement agreed on behalf of a Protected Party or a child in an informal hearing.

Claiming for someone who died as the result of a workplace accident

HSE (Health and Safety Executive) figures from 2015/16 show that 144 people were fatally injured at work, and 67 members of the public fatally injured in accidents connected to work.

These included agricultural accidents, accidents affecting manufacturing workers, accidents on construction sites and waste recycling-related accidents.

Other work-related deaths were caused by fatal diseases - such as mesothelioma, which resulted in over 2,500 deaths in 2014 - and fatal accidents involving workers travelling on a public highway.

Claims for compensation for people whose workplace accident or illness resulted in their death may be brought by their next of kin - usually a parent, spouse, civil partner of child.

Settlement amounts may vary greatly according to who the deceased person was supporting.

Where the deceased was the primary wage earner in a family, with a spouse, children and/or mortgage responsibilities, the Court would assess the future loss of income and its impact when calculating the settlement. However, if the deceased was single and without dependants, any next of kin may only be entitled to claim for the fatal injury. This amount is often only a relatively small sum.