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Construction Site Fatal Accident: Case Study

View profile for Wioleta Dworak
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The Claimant was widowed following a tragic accident on a construction site.  Her husband had been working for a scaffolding company contracted to erect scaffolding in order that a fragile roof could be replaced.  Whilst working on the roof, the Claimant’s husband fell through it, to the ground, sustaining fatal injuries.

As is often the case on construction sites, there was a chain of contractors, each owing a duty of care to those working on the site.  Given the nature of the accident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched a full investigation but this took over 4 years to be concluded.

The HSE concluded that one of the contractors (Business A) was responsible for, but had failed to, place a safety net beneath the fragile roof which would have prevented anyone falling through it to the ground below.  Following the accident, Business A went into administration and was subsequently dissolved, making it very difficult, if not impossible, for the Claimant to pursue them.   

The HSE also concluded that the business employing the Claimant’s husband (Business B) had failed to provide him with the proper safety equipment such as a safety harness and that they had failed to carry out a proper risk assessment or provide the necessary training for working at height.  Whilst this business was insured at the time of the accident, the insurers voided the policy.  Whilst the Claimant could have pursued Business B for compensation, it would have proved difficult to enforce any settlement or judgement for a significant sum of money.   

In road traffic accident cases, if the Defendant is without insurance, the person claiming compensation can make an application to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).  The MIB’s obligation is to handle claims in accordance with Agreements produced in collaboration between the MIB and the Government.  Unfortunately, no such scheme exists for other types of accident including employer’s liability claims.  Realistically, this leaves Claimants in this scenario unable to pursue a business at fault if they failed to take out appropriate insurance or if their insurers withdraw cover following an accident.   

As part of their investigations, the HSE established that a further company involved in the work (Business C) had been responsible for overseeing the work being carried out.  It was alleged that this company had been in breach of Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to communicate effectively with the many contractors involved to ensure that every stage of the works was being carried out safely.

Business B and Business C were both successfully prosecuted by the HSE.

Joint and Several Liability

In the above circumstances, the Claimant has very limited options for pursuing and successfully recovering compensation. 

However, under the legal principle of “Joint and Several Liability”, a Claimant may pursue an obligation against one Defendant and only need prove that this party was 1% or more at fault for the accident to succeed on a 100% basis.  The Defendant may allege that the injured person was partly at fault themselves (“contributory negligence”) but for anything else, they must pursue the other potential defendants for a contribution.

In this case, out of the 3 businesses potentially responsible for the accident, only one of them could in practical terms, be pursued for compensation.

Despite all of the difficulties posed and after many years of hard work establishing what happened and why, we successfully secured a six-figure settlement for our client.  Whilst it will not bring back her husband and the father of their children, it will enable them to purchase their forever home and provide them with some security for the future.  At the conclusion of this emotional case, our client commented as follows:

‘I cannot recommend Bell Lax Solicitors enough - they have worked on my case for nearly 5 years and we have come to the end now.  They got the best outcome me and my children could have asked for.’

If you or someone you care about has the need for a specialist lawyer to advise on their options following an accident or clinical negligence, please feel free to contact one of our team for a free no obligation discussion on 0121 355 0011.