We recently succeeded in recovering £25,000 in compensation for a client who had suffered hearing loss as a result of an accident at work. The claimant worked as a general caretaker and had various roles, for which he was provided with numerous different machines and vehicles. One of these was an excavator which was around 20 years old. One day, after briefly using the excavator, the claimant had walked alongside the machine when one of the hydraulic pipes suddenly burst and covered him with oil down one side. As a result, his right ear became filled with oil and he soon noticed that he was deaf in that ear. Whilst his hearing improved over the following weeks, it never fully recovered.
The claimant’s employer denied any wrongdoing. They maintained that they had regularly serviced the vehicle and that the pipe only burst because the claimant had caused the pipe to burst by leaving the excavator bucket elevated. They refused to acknowledge that the machine should have been subjected to statutory thorough inspections or that the numerous photographs showing multiple other frayed pipes on the excavator provided evidence of its poor condition. Furthermore, the claimant had left the bucket in a safe position, with the sharp teeth dug into the ground for safety reasons. Whilst that would leave tension in the hydraulic pipes, that was standard safety practice and should not have caused any problems in a healthy machine.
The company also tried to allege that the claimant was responsible for the maintenance of the excavator despite him having no mechanical experience and no relevant training. Other photographs also showed the poor condition of many of the company’s other machines and vehicles that the claimant had been provided with to use at work.
The company and their liability insurer refused to accept liability and so, once expert evidence had been obtained confirming that the claimant had suffered permanent exacerbated hearing loss as a result of the exposure to oil caused by this accident, court proceedings were issued.
Shortly after service of proceedings and once the company’s insurer had instructed solicitors, an opening offer of settlement was made by them and, following further negotiations, we achieved an increase of nearly 70% on that offer, resulting in the claimant receiving compensation of £25,000. The defendant and their insurer fought this case for 3 years.
This is yet another case which goes to show that defendants and their insurance companies will invariably be reluctant to accept liability and pay compensation in anything other than obvious cases of negligence. We often find that our clients’ claims are not taken seriously until court proceedings are issued, which is when defendant insurers will usually first look to take legal advice from their own solicitors.
Therefore, it is always important to take early and free legal advice from a local personal injury lawyer if you suffer injury following a workplace accident as defendants and their insurers will often do everything they can to avoid paying fair compensation, even when the evidence is stacked against them.