Can I make a work accident claim if I didn’t take any time off?

Updated: September 22, 2020

If you have sustained an illness or injury at work, you may be entitled to make a compensation claim. A commonly held misconception is that in order to make a successful claim, you need to take time off work.

Whether you take time off or not will have no bearing on your eligibility to claim and prospects of your claim being successful. So why is there so much confusion about this point?

The two types of compensation

Work injury compensation awards are broken down into two categories:

General damages

General damages are paid for any pain, suffering and loss of amenity you have experienced as a result of your injury. The amount of general damages compensation you can expect to receive will depend on the type and severity of your injury and the extent to which it has affected your life.

Special Damages

Special damages are paid to cover any costs and losses you incurred as a result of your injury. Special damages can include the cost of any private medical treatments, the cost of any future care, prescription costs, travel costs and damage to your property.

Special damages can also include any loss of earnings, including lost commission, bonuses and pension contributions.

Obviously, if you have not had any time off work then you won’t receive compensation for loss of earnings. However, returning to work would not affect your claim for any other costs and losses you have incurred.

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Should I take time off work?

Your decision to return to work should rely on the medical advice you have received and whether you feel fit and ready to return.

You will also need to consider whether your injury affects your ability to do your job or could make your injury worse.

A knee injury might, for example, prohibit you from returning to your job in construction. However, the same injury might not prevent you from functioning in an office-based role.

It is usually best to follow your doctor’s recommendation. Your doctor will take into account whether there is a risk that returning to work might exacerbate your injuries.

You may feel that your doctor’s advice is overly cautious and that you can safely return to work. If you do choose to ignore your doctor’s advice and return to work, it would difficult to claim further compensation if your injury was made worse.

Will taking time off work help my claim?

Returning to work does not mean that you have not experienced any pain, suffering and loss of amenity. Yet claimants often feel that returning to work soon after their accident somehow undermines their claim.

In fact, claimants have a duty to ‘minimise and mitigate losses’. This means that you, as a claimant, have a responsibility to keep your losses to a minimum and this includes not taking any more time off work than is necessary.

Taking more time off than you need to won’t, therefore, inflate the level of damages you receive. The amount of special damages compensation you receive will rely on the medical evidence and professional opinion. If the medical opinion is that you are able to return to work but you choose not to, you won’t be able to continue to claim loss of earnings.

What if I took paid time off?

If your employer continued to pay you while you were off work, you would not be able to claim for lost earnings for this period. You will still be able to claim for any other general and special damages.

Is there anything I should do if I do take time off work?

During your time off work, you should follow your employer’s sickness and absence policy. If you don’t have a copy to hand, contact your employer and ask to be emailed a copy of the employee handbook.

Your employer will probably require a sick note from your GP after the first week of absence. If you think you are going to be off work for more than a week, you should contact your GP as soon as possible as there is likely to be a waiting list for appointments.

You should make it clear (in writing) to your employer that you are taking time off as a result of your injury. This is important as your communications with your employer and any sick notes will be used to support your claim.

Keep a log of the times and dates that you are off work, as well as receipts for any treatments and expenses.

Have you been injured at work?

If you have been injured at work in the last 3 years, you may be able to claim financial compensation.

Find out more about making a work accident claim:

  • Do you qualify?
  • How much compensation could you get?
  • How does No Win, No Fee work?

Read more: Work accident claim guide

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