No Insurance? No Claim

{flickr|100|campaign} In the UK, employers are legally obliged to hold indemnity insurance in order to protect their employees and any member of the public that may be injured on their premises or due to their carelessness or negligence.

This, much like car insurance, is because many businesses would go bankrupt if they were obliged to pay for work accident claims or other compensation payouts themselves. Insurance is a legal requirement to ensure that businesses may operate, and employees may work, with as much peace of mind as possible.

Of course, this does not necessarily mean that they take the insurance out. As is the case with any law, some less scrupulous members of society will decide to ignore it, viewing it as an unnecessary effort or expense.

This seems to be precisely what happened in the case of Tomasz Kmiecic, a Polish builder who was injured when he fell from a ladder in Hampstead, North London, in June 2006. He alleges that the ladder with which he was provided was too short for the job, and the resulting slip and fall left him with a shattered right elbow and an injured hip and thigh.

The Daily Mail reports that the 31 year old tradesman sustained ‘life changing’ injuries as the result of his accident, and is suing the owner of the house on which he was working, Nadia Isaacs. Why is he doing this?

There are two reasons. Firstly, Mrs Isaacs, a dentist married to a lawyer, expressly forbade the claimant, like all workmen, from entering her GBP4 million home, fearful that he would damage or sully her immaculate white carpets. Mr Kmiecic alleges that a route through the house to access the garage roof he was to repair would be safer than using a ladder, but Mrs Isaacs put her foot down.

Secondly, he cannot sue his employer for providing the wrong sort of ladder, even though in law it is a perfectly feasible case to pursue. The fact is that the building contractor to which Mr Kmiecic was linked, Armag Decoration, was a ‘cowboy’ firm who did not have indemnity insurance.

He could sue them if he wanted, but very simply, they would not have any money to give him themselves. It is for precisely this reason that employers must carry insurance. If they cannot afford it, they should not be trading.

Mr Kmiecic’s claim has been branded an ‘affront to common sense’ by Mrs Isaacs’ lawyer, who argues that if the claim succeeds it effectively removes the right of a householder to decide who should be given access to their home, even if they are not there.

But lawyers for the claimant countered with the assumption that the case would give ‘an excellent opportunity’ for the law on these matters to be clarified.

At the High Court, Mr Kmiecic’s claim was rejected, after the judge found that Mrs Isaacs was not guilty of any wrongdoing. However, an appeal judge granted him the right to continue his claim, admitting that this case touches on areas of the law that have never been considered before.

The judge said, despite the implications for householders if the claim succeeds, the real culprit was the building contractor.

After all, if they had undertaken their legal duty of care towards their employees seriously, then Mr Kmiecic would have been free to pursue a work accident claim as normal.

He alleges that, since the accident, he can no longer work as a builder or carpenter, and despite what the knock-on legal effects may be elsewhere, he may well find himself the innocent victim of others’ lackadaisicalness if his appeal does not succeed.