I recently settled a claim for a client who had been employed as a delivery driver. His job involved the pick-up and delivery of soiled and clean laundry from commercial premises.
The bags of laundry were often very heavy and my client was not provided with appropriate equipment to minimise the risk of injury. On the day in question he was delivering fresh laundry (linen and work wear) to a ferry in the Port of Dover. This particular job had a large number of sacks that needed to be collected and delivered. My client often asked his employers for the correct equipment, such as a tail lift lorry and skips. His requests were ignored. Because of this he had to manually deliver the equivalent of 5 to 6 skips of laundry each time he did this particular job.
My client had to lift the sacks quickly, avoiding HGV lorries docking the ship at the same time. He found it difficult and frightening to unload from the side of his van once on the ship as he was not visible to the lorry drivers. All of this had to be done within a 15 minute time frame.
The boat was late which meant even less time to complete the job. My client unloaded the bags of clean items; two at a time because of the need to hurry. He felt he had no alternative; otherwise the job would not get done in time. A port worker started to try to hurry him up by asking how much longer he would be.
After my client finished unloading the soiled laundry, he then started to load the soiled laundry through the side of the van. The soiled laundry was wet and so the bags weighed about 10-20kg each. He was standing at the back of the van and was picking up the bags and throwing them in when he felt a pain in his shoulder and something ‘go’ in his neck.
My client had to stop work as the pain was unbearable, but after a few minutes the port worker came again to hurry him up. My client told him that he was struggling and so the port worker helped him complete the job.
My client went straight home that day, the following day he was unable to move. He was in so much pain that his partner had to make a bed for him on the living room floor. When he returned to work he was only able to carry out light duties. As time went on his pain continued and he was eventually unable to do his job.
I instructed a consultant orthopaedic surgeon to examine my client and prepare a report. The expert was concerned that the treating doctors were focusing on my client’s shoulder as the cause of his problems. Indeed, he had already received some physiotherapy and steroid injections to his shoulder by the time the expert was instructed.
The expert recommended an MRI scan of my client’s neck. That scan showed that he had suffered an injury to his neck rather than his shoulder. His treating doctors explained to him that he would benefit from surgery to his neck; either a disc replacement or disc fusion was recommended.
My client’s employer’s insurers admitted breach of duty for failing to provide him with appropriate work equipment but but throughout the claim they sought to argue that my client had not suffered a significant injury as a result of the incident. It became clear to me that the individual case handler at the insurers did not understand the medical evidence and how it had progressed since the medical expert first examined my client. I therefore issued court proceeding to progress the case.
Fortunately, once proceedings were served, the solicitor instructed for the insurers thoroughly reviewed the medical evidence, understood the implications and quite quickly made a reasonable offer to settle the claim that my client was glad to accept.