Case study: claim of yacht apprentice who fell through an open trap injuring his back

Compensation: £3,750

Summary:

Mr. W fell through a hatch on a yacht having not heard a warning from his colleague as he was operating a drill. He suffered a back injury which affected his ability to work and also his ability to participate in his favourite activities outside of work. Although his employer denied responsibility, after obtaining evidence from expert witnesses and co-workers, YouClaim helped secure a £3,750 settlement. Read on for the full story.

The Accident:

Mr W was 18 and working as an apprentice for Princess Yachts International when he fell through a trap door on a boat, injuring his back, legs and pelvis. The claimant had been fitting a door frame into the cabin of a pleasure craft while his colleague was cleaning out the bilges beneath the trap doors, shouting ‘Trap up’ each time he opened a trap. Mr W had been operating an electric drill while the warnings were being shouted and he subsequently fell through the open hatch when his colleague’s back was turned, landing on his left hip and grazing his pelvis.

The Claim:

The incident led Mr W to suffer from lower back pain and pain in his leg. Taking two weeks off work initially, Mr W’s injuries meant that he was subsequently unable to work overtime (as he had done previously) or to receive his ‘no sickness days’ bonus. He also had to adjust his lifestyle, being no longer able to take part in strenuous activities like gym going and dog walking. Mr W came to YouClaim to make a claim after his original solicitors dropped his case citing poor prospects. Legal executive, Linda Medhurst, took the case on with just 10 weeks remaining until the three-year-limitation period was up.

The Case:

The defendant, Princess Yachts International, had denied liability on the basis that a warning had been shouted when the trap door was opened. They asserted that other employees had heard the warning, suggesting that Mr W would also have heard it and was himself at fault for failing to take due diligence.

In order to prove that Mr W’s employers had been negligent, Linda obtained health and safety documents, including a health and safety induction training manual distributed by the defendant and the accident report forms relating to Mr W’s accident. The training manual clearly stated any open hatches should have a temporary handrail – or at the very least, high visibility tape - placed around them in order to prevent accidents. This had not been adhered to at the time of the incident.

Additionally, the first accident report which was signed by Mr W, made no mention of him having heard the warning shout. A second accident report stated that the claimant had heard the warning shout, but this was not signed by the claimant.

To establish the extent of Mr W’s injuries, Linda arranged to have his medical records obtained and for him to be seen by a spinal specialist. While the medical expert acknowledged the significance of the accident, he also identified that the claimant had a pre-existing condition that was linked to chronic back pain. The specialist estimated that the accident had accelerated the onset of this condition’s symptoms by one-to-two years, rather than directly causing them.

Settling the Case: Compensation

At this stage, the defendant continued to staunchly deny liability. Court proceedings were issued, and with just a month to go until the court date, the defendant made Mr W. a part 36 offer that would award him £3,750 in damages. After careful counsel, Mr W. decided to accept the offer and avoid the risky process of going to court.  The money enabled Mr W to make up income that he had lost through being unable to work overtime and receive his no sick days bonus. It also covered costs relating to healthcare and assistance that he had received.

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