Co-op worker assaulted when returning to work

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Our client, Mrs Ann Green, worked as a team leader at the Co-Operative when she sustained an injury in her workplace.

Mrs Green’s job required her to supervise the customer service area and to ensure the smooth running of the department.

On 27 August 2016, our client was returning to work from her break. She had been to visit her aunt, who lives on the other side of the store’s car park. As our client was walking back through the car park towards the store, she noticed a man shouting and swearing very loudly. Mrs Green recognised this man, as he was known to the area for his aggressive outbursts.

The man walked towards our client and then suddenly lunged towards her, head-butting her on the left side of her face. He then walked away. Our client went back to the store and then phoned the police.

The consequences

After giving a statement to the police, she returned to work and finished her shift. But the incident left a significant impact.

Our client suffered physical injuries in the form of bruising to her face. However, the stress and anxiety caused by the incident proved even more injurious. She has frequent panic attacks, and her anxiety is made worse because her job requires her to be on her own for part of the day. She has trouble going to work early in the morning and then returning home late at night.

To help with her psychiatric injury, her GP referred her to a counsellor for a series of sessions.

Despite her injuries, Mrs Green was not absent from work following the accident and therefore didn’t sustain any loss of earnings.

The settlement

Mrs Green instructed Thompsons’ work accident solicitors through her union, Usdaw. We intimated a claim against Co-Operative Food on the grounds that they’d failed to provide a safe work environment, including safe access and egress. We made reference to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1990. Similar incidents involving the same man assaulting other members of staff had been recorded previously, so it should have been reasonably foreseeable that such incidents would continue to happen if appropriate measures were not put in place. It was only after Mrs Green’s incident that her employer put sufficient measures in place, such as providing staff with panic buttons and increasing the number of security guards on duty. Had these measures been used earlier, it's likely the incident would not have happened.

The defender (the insurers acting on behalf of Co-Operative Food) admitted liability. We sent them a medical report detailing Mrs Green’s injuries, and they responded with an initial offer of £6,384. We discussed this sum with our client, stating that we felt it was too low. Our client agreed with us and rejected the offer. In August the defender made an increased offer of £7,184.00, which our client confirmed she was willing to accept.

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