What happens if my employer denies liability for my injury?

Updated: October 10, 2022

When making a work injury compensation claim, your solicitor will write to your employer, setting out the basis of your claim. We explain what happens if your employer denies liability.

Duty of Care

A 'duty of care' is the legal obligation of an individual, organisation or business, to keep others safe from harm.

Your employer owes this legal 'duty of care' to all employees, contractors, visitors and any one else that might be reasonably impacted by your employer's operation.

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.

If your employer failed in their duty of care to you and you were injured as a result, your employer will be held liable (at fault) and a compensation claim may be possible.

The Claims Notification Form (CNF)

Once you have instructed a personal injury solicitor, your solicitor will send a formal letter called a Claims Notification Form (CNF) to your employer (the 'defendant'), and their solicitor and/or their insurer.

The CNF will include your details, the basis of your claim, and it will ask your employer whether they admit liability for your injury.

Your employer then has:

  • 21 days to confirm receipt, and
  • 3 months to respond fully, stating whether liability is accepted or denied.

See also: What happens if my employer doesn’t respond to a claim?

What does it mean if my employer doesn't accept liability?

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

  • does not accept legal responsibility, and
  • does not think they should have to pay compensation.

What is 'vicarious liability'?

Employment law includes many safeguards to help ensure that workers are entitled to receive compensation following an accident at work.

Although an employer might not always appear to be to blame if an employee is injured, the employer will often still be liable under the legal principle of 'vicarious liability'.

Under this principle, for example, your employer could be held liable if you are injured:

  • as a result of the actions or negligence of their employees
  • when your manager asks you to carry out a dangerous task or to do something that you aren’t trained for
  • as a result of a co-worker or site visitor's actions

Vicarious liability does not mean your employer will always be liable (strict liability).

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 always held liable for a worker’s injury, depending on the circumstances.

Find out more: What is vicarious liability?

Employers’ liability insurance

By law, all employers must have Employers’ Liability insurance (EL). 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 after a work injury.

Is your employer or their insurer denying liability?

In the majority of claims, it is your employer’s insurer who accepts or denies liability on behalf of their client - the employer. Insurance companies dedicated claims handling teams. Insurance companies typically adopt a pragmatic and commercial view when assessing liability.

Regardless of what the employer believes, the insurer may decide that it is more cost-effective to pay compensation than it is to fight the case. As such, some insurers will prefer to settle immediately and negotiate a low compensation figure.

Alternatively, your employer's insurer may initially deny liability as a tactic to deter you from progressing your claim or to prime you for a low settlement offer.

What if my employer has already denied liability before I start a claim?

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 if liability is denied?

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

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

To give your claim the best chance of success you should start the process as soon as you can. 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. The main reason for this is cost. Insurance companies prefer not to fight injury claims in court, as they will have to pay legal fees and other costs if they lose.

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 won’t usually have to attend in person.

Don't do anything without prior legal advice

Regardless of whether your employer has accepted liability or not, if you think you may be entitled to compensation you should seek legal advice as soon as you can.

Avoid discussing your claim with your employer, their insurer or their legal representative, until you have your own legal representation.

Letting your solicitor handle everything on your behalf ensures that you won't accidentally say or do something that could prejudice your case.

Your solicitor will stick to the facts, advise you throughout the process, and use their experience to negotiate the best possible financial 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?

Read more: Work accident claim guide

Get the right advice

Our work injury advisors will:

  • Offer free, impartial advice
  • Explain how No Win, No Fee works
  • Recommend the right solicitor
Call 0800 218 2227 Open until 9pm
Call me back Choose a time