What happens if my employer denies liability for my injury?

Updated: January 14, 2021

If your employer denies liability for your injury or for your work accident, this means that:

  • They do not accept legal responsibility, and
  • They do not think they should have to pay compensation

However, employment law in the UK includes many safeguards to ensure that workers will usually still be entitled to receive compensation following an accident at work.

Fundamentally, the law requires employers to provide a safe working environment and to ensure the health and safety of employees. Employers must reduce and mitigate risks wherever it is reasonable and practical to do so.

Some jobs and workplaces are inherently more dangerous, but the law generally places even tighter requirements on employers in these situations.

A key legal concept that helps to ensure workers can recover compensation is 'vicarious liability'.

What is 'vicarious liability'?

Although an employer is not always “to blame” if an employee is injured during their work, the employer will often still be legally liable.

Under the principle of vicarious liability, an employer is liable for the actions or negligence of their employees.

If, for example, your manager asks you to do something dangerous, or that you aren’t trained for, and you are injured, the company is legally responsible. If a co-worker or site visitor does something dangerous, and you are injured, it is also possible that the company is liable.

Vicarious liability does not mean your employer will always be liable (referred to as 'strict liability'), however.

Strict liability is a legal term used when a party is responsible for someone’s injury even if they were not at fault (such as the manufacturer of a defective product). It is possible that an employer is not at fault for a worker’s injury, although this will depend on the facts of the case.

Find out more: What is vicarious liability?

Employers’ liability insurance

By law, all employers must have employers’ liability (EL) insurance in place. EL insurance protects businesses from the financial consequences of a worker’s injury claim, and ensures the injured worker receives the full amount of compensation they need to fund their recovery and rehabilitation.

In the majority of claims, it is your employer’s insurer, not the employer, who calls the shots. Insurance companies have decades of experience handling injury claims, and will usually take a pragmatic view about liability.

Regardless of what the employer believes, if it is more cost-effective to pay out compensation than fight the case, many insurers will prefer to settle.

Is your employer or their insurer denying liability?

Although your employer may deny liability because they (or their insurer) genuinely believe that they are not responsible, the denial may just be a tactic to put you off.

If an accident has only recently happened and you haven’t started a formal injury claim yet,
your employer may try to discourage you from starting a claim. Your employer may be reluctant to report the accident to their insurer and may be concerned about higher insurance premiums.

In reality, trying to discourage an employee from claiming can often cost a firm more in terms of time and stress than simply handing the management of the claim over to their insurance provider.

Denying liability may also be a tactic to get you to accept a low, early offer. You should seek legal advice as soon as possible, and do not respond to any offers of compensation without discussing the offer with your solicitor and without medical evidence.

Once you accept an offer you cannot claim more compensation, even if your symptoms get worse or a medical exam shows that you have or are likely to have additional injuries.

Can I still claim compensation?

Yes, you can usually still start a claim for compensation even if your employer refuses to accept liability.

Whatever your employer’s position, their insurer will usually take the less-costly option and settle, even if your case isn’t watertight.

Your solicitor will discuss your options with you, and if they believe you have a good case, will usually agree to proceed with your case even if the employer denies liability.

If a solicitor believes your case isn’t that strong, and can’t take on your case on a No Win, No Fee basis, you have other options. If you are a member of a trade union, the union may fund your case, or you can fund the case yourself.

To give your claim the best chance of success, start the process as soon as you can, and gather as much evidence as possible, including witness statements, medical records and a copy of the accident book report.

Will I have to go to court?

Very few work accident claims end up in court.

One main reason is cost; insurance companies prefer not to fight injury claims in court, as they will have to pay barristers’ fees and other expenses. Many insurers will agree to settle a case before it goes to court, even if they think there is the possibility that they could win.

Even if your case does go to court, you probably won’t have to attend court in person. If you have any questions about going to court, your solicitor will answer them and will explain to you how the court process works.

Don't do anything without legal advice

Regardless of whether your employer has accepted liability or not, if you think you may be entitled to compensation you should get legal advice from a personal injury specialist as soon as you can. If possible, you should avoid discussing your injury claim with your employer or their insurer or legal representative without getting your own legal advice first.

Letting your solicitor handle everything on your behalf ensures that you do not accidentally say or do something that could harm your case, and should also keep emotion out of the process. Your solicitor will stick to the facts of the case, and work hard to achieve the best possible outcome.

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?
Work accident claim guide