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Six-figure settlement for man who fell through roof and fractured his spine

Carpenter and handyman left with a serious back injury following a roof fall

People who work at heights are more likely to suffer serious back injuries than other workers

27 February 2013

Martin, a 33 year old carpenter and handyman has received £283,000 in compensation after being seriously injured when he fell through a warehouse roof.

Martin and a colleague had been contracted by Kent Property Contracts, to clean out and paint guttering on a warehouse roof.  The roof was made of corrugated asbestos and had skylights made of corrugated plastic.  Martin had been given instructions to walk along the rivets of the roof whist carrying out his work.  He was not given any protective equipment such as a safety harness to use whilst carrying out his work.  He was told that by walking along the roof rivets he would be walking along the strongest part of the building.

The roof was very weathered and it was difficult to distinguish the skylights from the rest of the roof because they were so discoloured. Martin and his college got up onto the roof to assess the condition of the gutters, it had been raining on the night before and they realised it was too wet to paint.  Martin called the defendant to find out what they should do and received instructions to sweep the gutters and leave the painting for another day.  As Martin turned towards his colleague to relay the instructions he stepped onto a skylight which immediately gave way under him resulting in Martin falling some 23 feet.  

Martin fell and fractured his spine in two places, broke his arm and suffered muscular and tissues damage to his wrist.  He also had a disc bulge in his lower spine which caused him great pain, he suffered from multiple bruises, grazes and abrasions, particularly around his hips, groin and right arm.

Martin was admitted to hospital for several days. He was unable to work for four months after the incident. 

Martin was able to return to his carpentry work, but serious back pain means that he has not been able to work a full day or week despite his use of strong painkillers and anaesthetic injections. Martin has therefore now retrained so that he can work as a CCTV operator.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the accident and confirmed that measures should have been put in place to protect Martin and his colleague.  The contracting firm had not carried out appropriate planning and risk assessments before Martin and his colleague climbed onto the roof.  The advice given to Martin to walk on the rivets was also dangerous. The defendant initially denied liability but then admitted responsibility. However three years after their admission of responsibility the defendant tried to partially blame Martin for the accident in an attempt to significantly reduce the amount of compensation he would receive. This was a very frightening prospect for Martin who had a young family to support. The Court found that he could not be held partially responsible for his accident. 

Following the production of expert medical reports Martin was confirmed as being unable to work long term as a carpenter and his claim was settled for £283,000.

Martin was represented by specialist workplace accidents solicitor Zahra Nanji. Zahra worked closely with Martin and his wife throughout the case.  She said:

"This was a long and challenging case.  Martin and his wife have a very young family and this made Martin’s inability to continue to work as a carpenter very a frightening prospect for him. When his accident occurred, Martin was not qualified to do anything else. His inability to work left Martin and his family vulnerable.  It was fantastic to assist Martin not only to obtain compensation, but also to help him in accessing services that allowed him to identifying a suitable new job.  Martin will continue to suffer from physical restrictions in the future, but he will now have the means to make appropriate adjustments to his life. I am very pleased that outcome of the case will enable Martin to provide a secure future for his family. "

Martin said:

“Falling through the roof and fracturing my spine has changed my life forever.  I live with constant pain and I will never be able to be as physically active as I was pre-accident.  This affects every aspect of my life from work, to family life and social life.

“However, with the help of Leigh Day and specifically Zahra Nanji, I now have the reassurance that my family’s future is more secure and I no longer have to worry from day to day about how I will provide for them.

“The case lasted almost five years but throughout that difficult and uncertain time, Zahra was always there to support us and most importantly believed in us!  She was not prepared to be intimidated by the defendants but instead stood up for the truth! “

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