Work Related Injury Claim For Social Worker - Case Studies

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Our client, a social worker employed by East Ayrshire Council, was referred to Thompsons' personal injury solicitors to pursue a compensation claim for arm pain caused by occupational factors.

The claim was complex and close to time-bar so Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland had to ensure that all aspects of the case were carefully considered when advising on the appropriate level of compensation for the injuries and the effect that they had had on the pursuer.

The background

Our client, a criminal justice social worker, had worked within the East Ayrshire Social Work Department from 1982 to 2018.

As an experienced member of the team, her workload included writing court reports for complex and sensitive cases as well as completing risk assessments and supervising court orders. From 2014, a large part of her workload was carried out using a computer and she became responsible for typing up a large majority of the reports rather than this being carried out by the court report writing team.

As time went on, our client's workload increased significantly and this resulted in increased levels of computer keyboard work. In order to complete the amount of complex, in-depth reports she was responsible for, she often worked extra unpaid hours.

In June 2016, our client began experiencing symptoms of fatigue in her arm, including numbness and heaviness. As time went on, the symptoms progressed to burning and tingling in her arm and this spread into her hand. The symptoms all appeared after typing and subsided when she rested. Our client raised concerns about the symptoms with a senior clerical organiser and an assessment of her working conditions was carried out. Some adjustments to her work station were made, but the painful symptoms did not abate.

The consequences

By August 2016, our client was suffering significant distress as a result of her symptoms and an Occupational Health doctor linked the discomfort and pain to repetitive strain injury caused by repetitive tasks at work. She was referred for physiotherapy at the time.

During a visit to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in the same month, a diagnosis of cubital tunnel syndrome was made.

Our client was also later diagnosed with depression for which antidepressants were prescribed, she also took painkillers for the on-going pain in her arm and hand.

The council employee was dismissed from her employment in December 2018 on grounds of ill-health; however, she was told she was not entitled to ill-health retirement and she took basic retirement. An occupational health report concluded that our client, who was in her late fifties when she retired, would not be able to return to her previous employment due to her physical and mental symptoms.

The settlement

At the outset of the case, we sought to recover our client's medical records to ascertain her injuries. Thompsons' personal injury solicitors also instructed a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon to determine our client's condition and he concluded that her writer's cramp and underlying cubital tunnel syndrome was aggravated by her work tasks. We also sought an opinion from a Consultant Neurologist who concluded that our client's injuries were work-related.

Both experts were of the opinion that there was a psychiatric element to the case and a further expert report was instructed.

The Consultant Psychiatrist concluded that our client had a recurrent depressive disorder which she had suffered from since the death of her child in 2007 and that she experienced depressive episodes as a result of her arm pain. The Psychiatrist noted that there was a causal nexus between her physical and psychological symptoms.

On the basis of these supportive reports we intimated a claim for compensation with the council. Liability was accepted; however, we were unable to agree a suitable personal injury settlement amount pre-litigation and so proceedings were quickly in order to prevent the claim from being time-barred.

Once court action was underway in the Court of Session, we instructed Senior Counsel as this was a particularly complicated medical case, and likely to be of substantial value as our client was unable to return to work.

Initially, an offer of £10,000 was put forward, but, based on our medical evidence and the fact that the defenders had not obtained their own medical reports, we felt this amount was far too low. This offer was rejected.

A further offer of £15,000 was forthcoming but was once again rejected, and at this stage it was decided that further expert evidence was required in relation to our client's pension loss.

Once the effect of her work-related personal injuries on her pension had been established the defender made a substantially increased offer of £100,000. They advised that they had concerns regarding our client's diagnosis and intended to instruct their own expert medical report. The defender felt strongly that they would succeed in court as their experts did not attribute all of the employee's symptoms to her work.

Thompsons' personal injury solicitors remained confident in our client's case and when a further compensation settlement offer of £150,000 was made, it was once again rejected.

Eventually, another offer of £200,000 was made by the defender and our client was happy to accept this amount as it was considered a good outcome.

Settlement was agreed on 11 January 2022

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