My client was an agency driver, working on only his second shift for the company. His job was to deliver steel products to various commercial customers at various locations.
My client was provided with gloves and asked to sign some paperwork which outlined the job reporting process and what to do with customer payments.
At no point was my client advised that he was not to assist customers with unloading their goods from the back of the truck. Indeed, my client’s delivery sheet included at least 2 destinations which were private addresses, so the company knew full well that the customer would be unlikely to have commercial tools or equipment available to attend to the unloading of some of the heavy steel products.
My client’s truck did not have any crane fitted nor any other lifting equipment and, upon arrival at one of the private addresses, the customer indeed expected my client to attend to the unloading of the steel products, which included some long lengths of steel.
With the assistance of a volunteering neighbour, my client manually unloaded some of the lengths from the back of the truck but, in doing so, he lost his balance due to the weight of the steel and fell backwards, with the end of some of the steel lengths falling on to him.
My client immediately felt intense pain in his back but did not appreciate the severity of his injury, later being diagnosed with a spinal fracture requiring surgery and the installation of two metal rods. My client had to wear a back brace for over 3 months following the surgery and was unable to take up a new permanent job that he had secured before the accident, which was due to start the following week.
A claim was submitted against the defendant company for failure to provide proper training, supervision and equipment. For many months, the company argued that my client was told not to assist customers with unloading deliveries and they even disclosed a document which included a disclaimer purporting to waivie any responsibility for workers injured whilst helping customers with unloading.
Firstly, that disclaimer document was never shown to my client and they had no signed copy of the document to prove otherwise. Secondly, the disclaimer was an attempt to avoid liability NOT an instruction to not assist. In practice, it would seem that the company was aware that drivers were regularly being asked to assist with unloading and, from the documents disclosed, it became clear that there had been previous incidents/concerns regarding the risks of injury posed by assisting with unloading. Nevertheless, the company appeared to be unwilling to actually instruct drivers not to assist and, in my client’s case, had never given him any training, warning or instruction regarding the non-assisting of customers with unloading.
Orthopaedic expert evidence was obtained detailing my client’s spinal injury and the recovery made.
At this point, the defendant company’s insurer then submitted an offer of settlement, recognising that their insured company faced a significant risk of losing the case and, after further negotiations, we were able to secure a settlement of just over £34,000, which was an improvement of £11,000 on the insurer’s original offer.