Accident Claims for Teachers Added up to £20m Last Year

Personal injury claims are almost routinely made after road traffic accidents, slips or trips in the workplace and incidents involving dodgy pavements or highways. Accidents in the workplace are understandably more numerous in some industries than others; manufacturing, agriculture and construction are particularly bad in terms of inherent risks; although health and safety laws exist to manage these hazards to reduce the threat of death or serious injury to workers. In any case, accidents can and do happen in any industry, so personal injury claims must be expected to occur anywhere. With this expectation in mind, however, it is still difficult to fully appreciate the dangers associated with certain industries; indeed, the risks of working in the education sector are not as obvious as those in the construction industry, yet more than £20 million in compensation was paid out to teachers in 2009.

Recently released figures suggest that the teaching profession is amongst Britain’s most dangerous occupations – at least so far as accident claims are concerned. Teachers, often represented by their respective trade unions, successfully claimed for £20 million last year, the bulk of which was paid out by insurers, local authorities and even the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). It is worth noting one caveat, however, in that a proportion of the accident claims for which compensation was received by teachers last year involved incidents that occurred before 2009. Nevertheless, £20 million in compensation remains a staggeringly high figure for an industry that many would have thought to be amongst the safest or least dangerous in the UK.

The UK’s largest teachers’ union, NASUWT, secured the largest portion of compensation paid out to teachers in 2009, with just over £8,700,000 awarded. General Secretary of NASUWT, Christ Keates, said: “I am pleased that the union has been able to pursue the claims of many members to a successful conclusion. This highlights the vital role played by unions in ensuring that workers are protected”. Mr Keates continued: “However, it is of deep concern that many of the claims could have been avoided if employers at school and local authority level abided by their statutory duties and responsibilities. The fact that compromise agreements are entered into so readily by employers is in itself an indication that they recognise that in many cases they have breached their legal duties”.

Mr Keates concluded: “Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money could have been saved every year if all employers took their legal responsibilities seriously. Whilst the sums of money involved might seem very significant, no amount of money can compensate for no longer being able to pursue your chosen career”. Mr Keates’ argument suggests that analysing the sum of compensation paid out in any one sector leads to unnecessarily negative public opinion, as the amount of money awarded takes centre stage ahead of the injuries sustained by the victims.

The £20 million in compensation awarded to teachers last year included £279,708 paid out to special needs teacher Sharon Lewis, who was injured after being assaulted by a pupil in Nottingham. Ms Lewis sustained neck and back injuries after the male pupil jumped on her, which caused her to fall to the ground. Other cases included a teacher from West Sussex who sustained an ankle injury whilst on playground duty (£173,595 awarded) and a West Midlands teacher who received £112,000 after injuring her shoulder and arm in an attempt to stop a 13-year-old student attacking another.

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