How long do you have to claim for a workplace injury?

If you have sustained an injury in the workplace it may be possible to bring a claim for compensation. However, you will usually need to be show that your employer was liable for the accident or for your injury.

Even if you were working on a temporary, casual or self-employed basis, you are covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The Act states that employers should protect employees’ 'health, safety and welfare' at work – as far as is “reasonably practicable”.

In most cases, there is a time limit of three years from the date of the accident in which you may bring your claim.

What if I was not aware of my injuries at the time?

Sometimes illnesses and injuries as a result of an accident develop at a later date.

Examples of when this may occur may include:

  • Lung disease caused by inhalation of toxic substances that have been leaked or spilled
  • Skin problems due to exposure to chemicals where the exposure levels have not been managed or monitored
  • Development of severe headaches or epilepsy following a trauma to the head after falling from a height at work

The date when you determine that your illness or injury may have been caused by another’s negligence is known as the “date of knowledge”.

The date of knowledge may be the date that you first became aware of your symptoms, or the date you suspected that they might be a result of your workplace accident. It may even be the date you received an official diagnosis of your illness.

You have three years from the date of knowledge in which to bring your claim.

What may I claim for my workplace injury?

A workplace injury claim involves claiming compensation for both physical and psychiatric injuries that you may have sustained through your accident. The amount paid will reflect your pain, suffering and loss of amenity and is known as general damages.

In addition, you may claim special damages to cover any expenses you incur as a result of your injury. This may include loss of earnings, cost of treatment and travel costs, as well as any expenses for personal assistance - such as shopping or cleaning if you are unable to carry out these tasks yourself.

How do I start a workplace injury claim?

A solicitor will act on your behalf to send a “letter of claim” to your employer.

The letter will include your personal details - name, address and National Insurance number - and a clear summary of facts about the accident, the injuries sustained and the impact they have on your day to day life, both now and in the future.

The solicitor will outline why he believes the employer is liable for the accident and the legislation to support that conclusion.

The letter of claim will include details of any financial loss incurred as a result of the accident and an indication of the amount to be claimed.

A copy of this letter should then be sent to your employer’s insurers who may decide to settle the amount out of court.

Issuing proceedings

If the level of compensation is not agreed by the employer or the employer's insurance provider, you may need to pursue your claim in court, by issuing legal proceedings.

This will involve completing certain court documents, paying additonal fees and obtaining a medical report as evidence to support your injuries claim.

Your solicitor will advise and assist with each step of the formal legal process.