What if I don’t know who's to blame for my work injury?

Updated: October 12, 2020

It is not always clear who is legally responsible for an accident. It may be that you don’t know the identity of the other party - in a hit and run car accident for example. When making a work injury claim, determining liability can still be complicated, even when the identity of the other party is known.

Duty of care

A duty of care is when an individual, company or organisation has a legal obligation for the safety and well being of others.

To make a successful injury claim it must be shown that another party both owed you a 'duty of care' and was negligent in that duty.

For example:

  • a road user has a duty of care for other road users
  • a doctor has a duty of care for the patient
  • an employer has a duty of care for their employees
  • a supermarket has a duty of care for their customers

To fulfil a duty of care, the responsible party must carry out risk assessments to identify any risks or hazards. Measures to ensure the risks are removed or safely managed must be implemented.

When establishing liability gets complicated

The identity of the other party is unknown

Road accidents with untraceable drivers are not uncommon. If the other driver flees the scene and you are unable to take down the car registration, you would not be able to claim compensation through that driver’s insurer

Instead, a claim can be pursued through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB). The MIB exists with the sole purpose of compensating people injured on UK roads where the other party is either untraceable or uninsured.

You were partly to blame

Liability is not always clear cut. If you collided with a car that pulled out in front of you, then the other driver would probably be liable for any injury. But what if you were speeding or not wearing a seatbelt? It might be that your injuries would have been less severe had you been driving within the limit or wearing a seatbelt.

In this example, a ‘contributory negligence’ defence might be argued by the defendant leading. If it's established that there was blame on both sides, a ‘split liability' decision might be reached where, for example, the blame is apportioned on a 50:50 basis. In this example, you would receive 50% of the compensation you would have received if the other party was fully to blame.

Multiple parties were at fault

Split liability can also apply when there are two or more parties involved. For example, if you were hit by multiple cars running a red light, a split liability agreement might be reached where the liability would be apportioned and you would be compensated by more than one other driver based on their level of attributed negligence.

It was ‘just an accident’

You may have been injured in what seems (at first glance) like an unlucky accident. However, it may be that another party was negligent in their duty of care and that negligence led to your injury.

For example, you may have been hurt by a shop front awning that collapsed in heavy winds. In this case, you might think that the wind was to blame and your injury was just an unlucky event. However, a strong wind is a foreseeable event and the responsibility, therefore, falls on the shop owner to ensure that the awning is both specified to be strong enough to handle the wind without falling. In this example, the shopkeeper would owe a duty of care to passers-by and would be held liable.

Even if you think that on one else is to blame, you should seek legal advice. A solicitor will view the accident from a legal perspective and may deduce that another party owed you a duty of care.

Why work accidents are different?

If your injury was sustained while you were doing your job, there would be other considerations when ascertaining liability. An employer must ensure that:

  • Your working environment has been risk assessed. This obligation still exists if you work away from your employer’s offices or even at home.
  • Any identified risks must have been removed or minimise.
  • You receive adequate and ongoing training in your job
  • You are provided with any necessary safety equipment

A failing in any of these areas would likely mean that your employer is liable, even if you were doing something that you should not have been.

What if I a colleague was to blame?

It may be that your colleague's actions or inactions led to your injury. In this case, your employer would still be liable. The principle of ‘vicarious responsibility’ means that your employer is responsible for the actions or inactions of its' employees.

How can we help?

Whatever your circumstances, you should always seek legal opinion in the first instance.

If liability is not clear or you think you may be responsible for your injury (partly or fully), the sooner you speak to a solicitor the easier it will be to piece together the facts and construct a claim where third party liability can be established.

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