How much compensation can you claim for a back injury at work?

A back injury occurs in six out of every ten work-related accidents, accounting for nearly 120 million lost work days every year.

The most common causes of back injury include slips and trip accidents at work, falls from height or carrying heavy objects (manual handling injuries), an activity that can put considerable strain on the back.

Anyone who has sustained a work-related back injury could be entitled to make a claim for compensation. Damages could be significant, depending on the seriousness of the injury and the long-term impact.

What type of back injuries can you claim for?

You can claim compensation for any type of back injury including slipped discs, sprains and strains, fractured vertebrae and soft tissue damage.

The important thing is to show that your employer was responsible for your injuries. The following is a list of the typical situations where you may be able to establish that the employer was to blame:

  • Manual handling injuries caused by lifting or carrying heavy or awkward loads without the proper safety training or equipment
  • Falling from height at work, for example from a ladder or scaffolding through inadequate training, monitoring or equipment
  • Slipping or tripping on wet or greasy floors or due to poorly cleaned and maintained work premises
  • Repetitive strain back injury caused by unergonomic work practices, poor training or carrying out repetitive tasks with insufficient breaks
  • Back injuries caused by a faulty product such as chairs that are not fit for purpose.

Calculating compensation for a back injury in the workplace

To determine the likely compensation for pain and suffering, your solicitor will consider a number of sources,particularly the report of a medical expert and the Judicial College Guidelines.

When you first consult a solicitor, he or she will send you to an independent medical expert who specialises in back injury. The doctor will give an opinion about the seriousness of your injury and when you can expect to make a full recovery.    

The Guidelines set out recommended amounts for the 'general damages' component of personal injury awards. Essentially a tariff system, the Guidelines recommend a maximum and minimum award for each type and severity of back injury ranging from a sprained ligament to osteoporosis of the spine.

By comparing the Guidelines and the awards made in similar cases with the medical report, your solicitor will be able to estimate how much your claim is worth by reference to the type and seriousness of your injury. This figure is used as a starting point in settlement negotiations.

Examples of general damages awards for back injuries

The Guidelines recommend the following general damages awards:

  • Minor soft tissue damage or muscle injuries that recover within two years and without surgery: £1,705 to £6,380.
  • Minor soft tissue damage or muscle injuries where the painful symptoms last for up to five years: £10,120
  • Moderate back injuries such as ligament damage that causes chronic pain: £10,120 to £22,440, or £31,350 if you do not regain total mobility.
  • Severe Back injuries such as fractures and arthritis: £31,350 to £71,500 depending on the need for surgery and whether the back injury causes other complications such as impaired bladder function
  • Awards of up to £130,130 are possible for the most serious back injuries that do not involve paralysis.

Compensation may also be claimed where an existing back injury has been made worse by the accident. These claims can be harder to evaluate and will depend on the medical evidence available.