Compensation for care worker with shoulder injury

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After a home carer was injured during the course of her employment, her union, Unison, referred her to Thompsons’ personal injury solicitors so we could secure compensation for her.

This case study relates to her compensation claim.

The background

When she sustained her arm and shoulder injury at work, our client was employed by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership. As a home carer, she visited and assisted service users in their homes.

On the evening of 21 February 2019, she visited a service user who had no mobility (she usually attended to this service user during the daytime, but this day she was working an overtime shift). This particular service user was unable to get out of bed and required a stand aid to help her move from her bed into a wheelchair. Our client would usually then take her into the living room, where there was a special recliner chair. This chair had a footrest that our client could remove to make it easier for the service user to get on and off it. Once the service user was in the chair, our client would reattach the footrest.

However, as this was the evening, our client (and another agency worker assisting her) had to do this process in reverse, transferring the service user from the recliner chair into bed.

Our client knelt on the floor to pull the lever that released the footrest. It was here that she sustained her injury. As she removed the footrest, she felt a pain in her right arm. At the time she thought she had only pulled a muscle and did not report the injury to her employer. But the pain soon got worse.

The consequences

A couple of weeks later, in March 2019, the pain had not subsided. Our client was unable to lift her right arm, and the pain had now spread to her shoulder. She made an appointment with her GP, who believed that she may have torn the tendons in her right shoulder.

The next month, her pain still not settling, she went to Stobhill Hospital for a scan, which revealed damage to her tendons. She was diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury. Her GP signed her off work.

Our client was off work from the end of April until July, during which time she attended a number of physiotherapy sessions. When she returned, her employer still expected her to attend to the service user. When she raised her concerns about the chair, her line manager told her they would order a hoist to make moving the service user easier. This was not done (and it would not have reduced the risk of injury because, even with a hoist, our client would still have needed to remove the footrest).

She continued to struggle with the pain in her shoulder after her return to work. She found caring for all her service users difficult, and she needed assistance from her family when carrying out everyday chores. She took painkillers and continued performing physiotherapy exercises.

The settlement

We intimated a claim to our client’s employer, and their insurance company admitted liability pre-litigation.

We instructed a consultant orthopaedic surgeon to examine our client’s injuries. They advised us that she had an underlying degenerative condition in her shoulder that the injury had accelerated by an estimated period of three to five years.

Because of her painful shoulder injury, our client had to retire six months earlier than she had planned. As our consult surgeon agreed this was reasonable, we obtained a pension loss report from a consultant actuary for the six-month period.

We were unable to reach a settlement with the solicitors working on behalf of Glasgow City Council. Therefore, we raised a court action in the All Scotland Personal Injury Court, and a provisional proof date was set.

Shortly thereafter, the defender instructed their own consultant orthopaedic surgeon to examine our client. This consultant accepted that the workplace shoulder injury had accelerated her condition, but only by a period of two to three months.

Following this new medical evidence, the defenders made an offer of £5,000. We discussed this offer with our client and agreed it was too low. The defenders then made a higher offer of £9,000, which our client also rejected.

The defenders then put forward a further offer of £12,000. The difficulty we faced was that the periods of acceleration given by both medical experts were vastly different; if the opinion of the defender’s expert was favoured in court, the compensation sum would be a lot lower. We therefore advised our client to accept the £12,000 in compensation, which we thought was fair considering the substantial discrepancy in the two experts’ medical reports.

The workplace accident claim was settled on 23 November 2022.

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