Assaulted hostel worker's claim for severe psychiatric injury

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Our client was employed as a hostel assistant at the Perth & Kinross hostel when she was involved in an incident, the same as her colleague in the case study above.

In the early hours of 30 March 2013, a man who had been staying at the hostel tried to gain access. At this time, however, the hostel had been locked up for the night, and the staff were not permitted to let him in. The resident should have known this, but he continued to make attempts to get inside the building.

When our client and her colleague informed the man that they could not let him in the hostel, he became aggressive towards them. Knowing that the resident had a history of violence, the two hostel employees continued to ignore him, but he then proceeded to break a window and enter the building. At this point her colleague called the police. When he then began trying to break the reception office window with a fire extinguisher, our client and her colleague were forced to escape through another window and then climbed over the vehicular gate. In doing so, our client injured her shoulder.

It was later found that the man was on parole at the time and, given that he'd been previously banned from the hostel after an incident in 2005, should not have been allowed to stay at the hostel in the first place. However, the employer informed our client that a change in legislation meant he had to be permitted because of his homelessness.

The Consequences

As well as the injury to her left shoulder, our client also suffered severe psychiatric injury as a result of the attempted assault. She still gets traumatic flashbacks of the attacker approaching her, and she has had to seek help from a psychiatrist to help with her post-traumatic stress disorder. Our client had the very real fear that she was going to be badly hurt or possibly even killed if the attacker managed to get to her. As the attacker was holding a pair of scissors while breaking into the building, our client and her colleague had every reason to believe he intended to attack them.

What's more, she also suffers from fibromyalgia, which became worse in the aftermath of the incident.

The Settlement

Our client instructed Thompsons work accident solicitors through her union, UNISON. We intimated a claim to Perth and Kinross Council. They initially denied liability.

Her employer tried to place liability on our client by claiming she breached protocol by not calling the police as soon as the man climbed the gate. But our client felt that if staff called the police for every small breach of security, it would lead to them raising too many false alarms with the police. It was reasonable for our client and her colleague to call the police only once the threat to their safety became severe.

However, our solicitors continued to fight for our client, making reference to where her employer had failed in their duty to sufficiently protect their employees as outlines in the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999. They were therefore breaching our client's right to be safe at work. We also had CCTV footage of the incident, which helped our case.

On 18 August 2017, after a long-running denial of liability from her employer, we finally reached a settlement post-litigation of £55,000 for our client's shoulder injury and psychiatric injury, which was £15,000 more than the initial offer. This sum included compensation for pension loss and loss of earnings.

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