If you have had an accident at work caused by another employee, your employer may be vicariously liable. If vicarious liability can be established, you could be entitled to make a claim against your employer.
What is vicarious liability?
Vicarious liability refers to a situation in which an employer is held responsible for the actions or negligence of their employees. In other words, the employer can be held liable for the wrongful conduct of their employees. For an employer to be held liable, the action must have occurred within the scope of the employee’s employment.
Accidents at work can arise for a variety of reasons. Employers have a duty of care to their employees and must ensure all health and safety regulations are adhered to, to minimise the chances of accidents happening. Unfortunately, accidents do still happen, and in some cases, are caused by another work colleague.
If the accident was caused by the actions or omissions of another employee, the employer may be held vicariously liable for the damages caused by the accident. This means that the employer may be held legally responsible for the actions of their employee, even if the employer did not directly cause the accident.
Our member firms at Major Trauma Group are highly experienced in dealing with personal injury claims and always put the client’s best interests at the forefront of the process. Claiming compensation for an accident at work caused by another employee can not only provide you with financial reimbursement for your pain and suffering (general damages), but we can also help to secure specialist care and rehabilitation services to ensure you have the best chance of making a full recovery.
Employers have a legal obligation to ensure that their employees work in a safe environment. They have a duty to identify and assess any potential hazards in the workplace, establish and implement policies and procedures to prevent accidents and injuries and provide competent supervision and training.
The following are some of the key duties that employers have regarding health and safety:
- Risk Assessments: It is an employer’s responsibility to conduct regular risk assessments of the workplace and identify potential hazards that could cause harm to employees. They must then take steps to eliminate or control those hazards.
- Health and Safety Policies: Employers must establish and communicate health and safety policies and procedures to all employees.
- Training and Information: Appropriate training and information to employees over the course of their employment must be provided to enable them to work safely.
- Protective Equipment: Protective equipment and clothing, such as helmets, gloves, and safety shoes must be provided to employees.
- Record Keeping: Employers must keep accurate records, such as an accident book, of any incidents, injuries, and accidents that occur in the workplace and take steps to prevent their recurrence.
- Review and Update: Safety policies and procedures should be updated by employers regularly to ensure that they remain effective and up-to-date.
The protection of employees has been significantly enhanced by health and safety laws and regulations. Various written regulations have been introduced to prevent workplace accidents, and non-compliance can result in legal action against employers. The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance on their website to assist employers in implementing workplace health and safety legislation.
Common accidents at work caused by another employee
Accidents caused by colleagues in the workplace can vary depending on the industry and work environment. Some common types of accidents that can be caused by colleagues include:
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents: Other employees may leave hazards on the floor, such as spills, equipment or materials, or other objects that can cause someone to slip, trip, or fall.
- Struck by falling object accidents: Colleagues may inadvertently drop or throw objects, or equipment from heights, causing injury to co-workers.
- Falls from height: Another employee may cause an injury at work due to a poorly erected scaffolding, or by unintentionally knocking a colleague off balance whilst working at height.
- Vehicle accidents: In jobs that involve driving, such as transportation or delivery, colleagues may cause accidents by driving recklessly or not following safety protocols. Accidents may also occur as the result of a colleague driving workplace equipment, such as a forklift truck in a reckless manner.
- Chemical exposure: In jobs that involve handling hazardous materials or chemicals, colleagues may cause accidents by not following safety procedures, resulting in exposure to harmful substances.
- Assault by a co-worker: Although uncommon, injuries at work can be caused by one employee physically assaulting another.
Criteria for establishing vicarious liability
The rule of vicarious liability is often used in personal injury cases regarding employees being injured at work. However, to prove vicarious liability, several criteria must be met.
There must be a clear relationship between the parties, so in this case, a relationship between the employee and the party being held vicariously responsible (the employer). A relationship could be defined as employment, agency, or partnership.
The court will use its discretion to ascertain whether a relevant relationship exists during a case and will predominantly look at the level of control the employer has if a relationship is deemed ambiguous. This can be the case when independent contractors are involved. If the self-employed person has a contract to carry out services on behalf of an ’employer’, a relationship can be more easily established.
Additionally, the wrongdoer (another employee in this case) must have displayed wrongful conduct or negligence that has led to another employee becoming injured. Accidents at work caused by other employees are, unfortunately, quite common and can happen for a number of reasons. These reasons may include poor training, or lack of personal protective equipment.
An important point in the criteria for establishing vicarious liability in accident at work cases is if the accident occurred whilst they (the wrongdoer) were acting in the course of their employment. This means that the act must have been authorised, or closely connected, to the employee’s job duties. Similarly, the wrongful conduct must have been related to, or motivated by, the employee’s job duties or position.
When may vicarious liability not apply?
Vicarious liability can be difficult to establish in court if the employee who caused injuries to a fellow employee were not acting in the course of their employment. Essentially, this means that the employee was not carrying out a task or doing a job related to their work at the time of the accident.
In many cases, employees have light-hearted fun with each other at work. Although this is generally accepted and overseen by the employer, it can sometimes escalate into accidents. Claims can sometimes be made through the employer’s liability insurance in such instances; however, not all cases can guarantee that vicarious liability will be applied.
Employers must make sure there is a fair balance between the workplace being enjoyable and professional, though it must always be safe. Clear workplace guidelines can help prevent light-hearted fun from turning into a serious injury, and employers must ensure all employees are aware of what is, and what is not, appropriate for the workplace.
How can Major Trauma Group help?
The Major Trauma Group has a network of experienced legal firms located throughout the UK. Our primary goal is to secure the best possible financial compensation and specialised medical care and rehabilitation for our clients.
We understand that traumatic injuries can create significant challenges in daily life. We are dedicated to working tirelessly to achieve optimal outcomes for our clients, thereby improving their chances of making a full recovery.
If you have suffered an injury due to another employee’s negligence or wrongful act at your place of work, and have queries surrounding vicarious liability, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss your case. Our member firms can offer their expert legal services on a no win no fee basis.