Having an accident at work (or even just getting hurt at work) can be a harrowing and life-changing experience – especially when you are not to blame. For some going through the procedure of a compensation claim * can be emotionally tough as you relive the circumstances of the injury over again, this is further magnified if there is resistance or objections during the claim *. After a successful claim * you are generally awarded a financial settlement that is designed to put you back into a position that you would have otherwise been in if it wasn’t for the accident. When hurt at work you are also entitled to a loss of pay settlement, if your company is liable.
For most, the financial compensation will never restore a person who has suffered a severe injury or loss of limb to the position they were in before the event. The legal system in Ireland does however see this as the best way to provide justice in respect of the wrongs that have been committed. In an attempt to fairly arrive at an appropriate figure, the compensation is broken down into two distinct categories – general damages and special damages.
General damages represent the compensation due for the pain, suffering and inconvenience, as well as the loss of joy of living, caused by the incident. It takes into account the damage it has already caused in this respect, as well as how much it will continue to in the future. This means that by definition the amount received in general damages will differ depending on the specific circumstances. An example of this being an accident that results in continual agonising pain will see a younger claimant receive a larger sum due to the longer period of time they will have to live with it (providing they live out their natural lifespan).
Special damages, in contrast, are items that can be objectively quantified, with the aim being to put someone back into the financial position they would be in without any injury. The most common categories that fall into special damages are loss of earnings and the cost of any medical treatment required due to the injury.
Calculating special damages is conducted in a much more scientific manner compared to determining a figure to compensate a person’s misery. Despite this, the injured party’s injuries and individual circumstances will have a profound bearing on the level of damages that are awarded, most notably in the calculation of loss of earnings.
Expenses via special damages
Special damages also allow for some other items of expenditure to be recovered and these are as varied as the circumstances of each individual claimant. Below are some of the more common and typical examples of legitimate claims *:
- The cost of any specialist treatment received – and due in the future – due to the injury sustained.
- Rehousing costs for those injured so severely that they require a specialist property to be able to live properly. This would cover someone that now requires a wheelchair or has been paralysed and require either extensive refurbishment of their current property or a new property that is suitable.
- 24 hour nursing for those that have been catastrophically injured and that require constant specialist care.
- Devices and aids including specially adapted vehicles.
These items can account for some truly significant sums being awarded, especially if the claimant is very young and has to live with catastrophic injuries or disabilities for the rest of their lives. It is generally in these cases that you see the headlines of ‘millions of euros’ in newspapers.
Calculating lost pay is considerably easier if you are a PAYE employee. You can simply multiply your net weeks wage by the number of weeks that you have been absent from work. The only complication is that this has to be verified by a certificate from your employer, so they may not work quite so quickly due to the fact you are making a claim * against them.
For those that have a variation in pay week to week then this process becomes a lot more complex. The differences may be down to seasonality or because of varying amounts of commission, so it is important that all possible factors are taken into account when working out the full amount of lost earnings. Using an experienced personal injury solicitor should help you with this as more often than not they can calculate the amount required in loss of earnings compensation.
Additional expenses and losses
For other expenses that are incurred due to the injury, it is common sense to keep receipts for everything. This includes any medical expenses that have been acquired and it is always better to have too many receipts than too few, this way you ensure that only unallowable expenses get declined rather than not being able to claim * a legitimate claim *.
The most important thing about special damages and the claiming of them and any expenses is that it can take place after the initial claim * has been submitted. This means that the two year limit is stopped and you can build your claim * from there.
It is always advisable to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer for advice on all aspects of a workplace injury claim *.
About the author
Mike James is an independent blogger, writing about the legal sector. He is currently working with McCarthy & Co, a specialist personal injury solicitors who have provided advice and guidance on the legal regulation aspects of this article.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.