Fall from height for team leader

This case involved a team leader working at BSW Timber who fell from height during his shift and sustained a back injury.

At the depot, our client dealt with wagons coming into the yard, loading and unloading deliveries. He was also responsible for health and safety.

On the day of his accident, our client had been working in the crow's nest, an area that required workers to climb two ladders, neither of which have handrails, to get to it. Our client needed to ascend the ladders so he could check whether the area needed to be cleaned.

There was a small platform between the first and second ladder. It was so small that two people would struggle to stand on it. The top platform (the nest) was much wider. Both platforms were enclosed by railings.

Our client was making his way up the second ladder when his foot slipped on one of the rungs, and he fell backwards onto the railing of the middle platform.

The Consequences

Although shocked by the fall, our client climbed down from the platform to seek medical attention. He felt excruciating pain in his groin and around his coccyx area. He went to the depot's canteen, where he was seen by a first-aider, who called an ambulance to take him to hospital.

At the hospital, our client was sent for an x-ray, which confirmed that, although he hadn't fractured his coccyx, he needed to stay in hospital overnight so the staff could carry out further checks. He was given a CT scan the next day and, as it showed nothing of concern, he was discharged from hospital.

However, this did not mean no damage had been done. He continued to suffer from significant pain in his back and had to make ongoing visits to his GP, who provided him with pain relief medication.

The injury caused significant disruption to our client's life. It was extremely painful for him to sit on any hard surface, which meant he couldn't sit on a bike saddle, which was problematic for him as cycling was his main hobby. He was unable to drive and he struggled to sleep or take a bath.

After the accident, our client had disciplinary proceedings taken against him because he had not been wearing a harness while climbing up to the crow's nest. However, our client argued that it was impossible to attach the harness to the railings in the area, as there was no tether to attach the ring fixings, and that it was not made clear that a harness was required to be worn in the area.

Although our client was provided with protective equipment in the form of a helmet, high visibility jacket, safety boots, and gloves, they were not sufficient for the job he was carrying out. The boots he was given were meant to be banned from the site as they didn't provide enough ankle support, and they also had poor grip. Our client also blamed the paint used on the ladder, which was not non-slip. As the weather was dry that day, the factors that made the ladder slippery were all man-made and could have been avoided by the employer.

The Settlement

Our client was able to instruct our work accident solicitors during the course of his fall from height claim through his union, Unite. We intimated the claim to his employer, who admitted liability.

To ascertain the full extent of the damage sustained by our client, we arranged for him to undergo an examination by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon. The resulting medical report confirmed that the worker had sustained a soft tissue injury to his lower back and coccyx. As our client was still receiving treatment at the time of this examination, we decided to put the case on hold to see if any of the treatment methods, such as steroid injections administered into his back, made any difference to his prognosis.

He was re-examined and another report made. The second report confirmed the treatment had been unsuccessful and that our client's symptoms in relation to his coccyx were, unfortunately, permanent.

Furthermore, the permanent symptoms meant our client was unable to return to work. We obtained a report from an employment consultant so we could establish the likelihood of him ever being able to go back. Because our client also displayed symptoms of depression, which were due to the stress of the accident and its aftermath, we arranged for him to be examined by a consultant psychiatrist.

We forwarded this information to the insurance company (the defender) but received no response in the form of proposals, so we continued to raise proceedings in the All Scotland Personal Injury Court. Shortly thereafter, however, the defender made an offer of £25,000. Our expert work accident solicitors discussed this sum with the client, who agreed it was not sufficient, and the offer was rejected.

Since the defender made a plea for contributory negligence, we instructed yet another report from a consultant engineer, which supported the claim that no harness system was in place when it should have been.

We pressed on with court proceedings. At a pre-trial meeting, the defenders produced a medical report of their own which differed greatly from our own medical evidence. The defenders' report stated that the worker was feigning the extent of his injury to maximise his compensation.

However, following the pre-trial meeting, the defenders put forward an offer of £60,000. After further discussions between our solicitors and our client, the offer was again rejected.

Eventually, an offer of £80,000 was put forward in full and final settlement. Our client confirmed he wanted to accept this, and the case was settled on 13 October 2017.

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