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A tragic accident occurred last week at a farm just outside Linlithgow when two men were fatally injured following the collapse of a wall. Two others were also injured as a result of the wall collapse. The men were working on the wall at the time of the accident. Far too frequently do we see new stories of workers who leave their families in the morning to go out to work and do not return. While investigations are ongoing at the farm by Police Scotland, and the Health and Safety Executive, and the cause of the collapse of the wall is unknown, it does cause you to wonder about the health and safety practices implemented for the job. If a wall or structure is unsafe then the necessary safety measures should be put in place to protect the employees who have to work in that environment to prevent accident such as this.

Accidents which occur in agricultural workplaces can cause some of the most serious and life changing injuries due to the nature of the job and the equipment employees have to work with. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have reported, in their 2017/2018 report, that those working in agriculture has the highest rate of fatal injury in all main industry sectors, around 18 times higher than the all industry rate. By comparison, the sector only accounts for 1% of workforce.

In the year 2017/18, 33 people were killed as a result of farming or other agricultural related activities. Of this 33, 29 deaths related to employees, five of which were caused by individuals becoming trapped or something collapsing. The number of agricultural related deaths increased from previous years and increased on the five year average. In the past five year, 158 people have died as a result of agricultural accidents, of which 15 lost their lives due to being crushed/trapped in an accident. In addition to fatal injuries, the HSE has reported 13,000 non-fatal injuries to worker in the agricultural sector in the year 2017/18.

The figures produced by the HSE clearly show that the farming and agricultural industry can be a dangerous environment for employees and can result in serious or fatal injuries. The employee, or their family, may be entitled to compensation following an accident.

When an individual is injured during the course of their employment, they can make a claim for compensation if they consider that their employer has been negligent. The right to claim compensation is not automatic and the onus is on the employee to prove their case. In order to establish negligence, it has to be shown that the employer know or ought to have known about an issue, such as an unsafe structure, prior to an accident and that they could have taken steps to prevent an accident. If the employee is able to establish negligence, then they are likely to be successful in proving their case.

In unfortunate circumstances where an employee has been fatally injured as a result of an accident, it is possible that their family can make a claim for compensation. The same principles of establishing negligence still apply. If it is able to be shown that the employer has acted in a negligent way then they can be held liable for the death and the family of the deceased can make a claim for compensation.

In fatal cases, the law governing compensation is set down in the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011. Under this legislation, immediate family (such as spouses, children, parents and siblings etc.) can claim for loss of society; loss of financial support; and funeral expenses. Each family member has their own individual right to claim. The family are each treated as an individual for the purposes of the case and one family member’s compensation does not change based on the number of people involved in a claim. In addition to having individual rights to claim, a claim can also be advance by the executor of the deceased’s estate for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced prior to their death.

Following the death of a loved one, it is important family members seek guidance from specialist solicitors dealing with cases of this nature.

Blog by Eilish Lindsay, Accident Solicitor

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