Opinions

Question: Does anyone have an opinion/advice on the following? I was diagnosed with tenosynovitis in August 1998 by a consultant rheumatologist who said that it was caused by typing although I do not know if he actually wrote that down. My problems actually began a lot earlier but he was the first doctor to actually diagnose anything. My shoulder problem was never officially diagnosed. With the use of voice software and lots of money on Alexander lessons and osteopaths I now manage my symptoms and have stayed in work and have even been promoted. However, I have now been given notice of redundancy. I have never pursued a claim against the company because they were my employer and obviously I would rather stay in my job than pursue a claim which might not succeed and would probably only result in a small amount of money. Do people think that I should now start a claim on the following basis? I am a member of the union in the company.

  1. The pain I have suffered and still suffer.
  2. The money I have spent on managing my symptoms.
  3. That it will be extra difficult for me to find another job because I am disabled and will require special equipment and a quiet room to myself.

Any opinions/advice gratefully accepted.

Answer 1: Sorry to hear your news. I have just been put in the same boat just beendismissed from a job which caused my RSI, with regards to claims for injury (personal injury) as far as I know you have to make the claim within 3 years of the “accident” happening. I am currently trying to “do” my ex-employer for unfair dismissal and/or personal injury so providing it within the last 3 years that you have got it I don’t see that there would be a problem. I am trying to go through claims direct not sure if they are any good yet as I am still waiting to see if they will take my claim on but I am hoping they will! Hope this helps you some – oh just remembered I have just been to the DSS office (to sign on) but while I was there I have asked to see a disability advisor so I will let you know what the outcome of that is as well if you wish?

Answer 2: As I understand it, one of the issues relating to a claim is the length of time elapsed before you do anything about pursuing the claim. You may need to act now (I *think* 2 yrs is the salient length of time, but get some proper advice quickly! – eg: your union) – on the basis that if you change your mind later, it will be too late. It depends on how you assess the risks in either direction. Also, you don’t say how old you are. I’ve always kept in mind (I’m 50 now) that if I were in your situation – and I have left it too late to claim – I would attempt to obtain early retirement on the grounds of disability… so far, I haven’t had to pursue that, but all jobs are precarious these days, so who knows…

Answer 3: Sue, I took disability retirement — because my employers were kicking me around so badly I saw no other course of action (my letter to my Head of Department re the retirement application, and my doctor’s letter of support, make that aspect of the decision clear) — but I was out of time to bring a case, you are in good time. Whether disability retirement is the right course of action — you could also seek early retirement on the grounds on disability, one does not preclude the other — depends on what else you can do. One course of action that occurs to me is to ask your Union (if they’re better than mine!) whether you’re being made redundant might not be a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. In other words, there are various options. I think disability early retirement only really works if you are allowed to take paid work while receiving the pension and have something you want to do, or if you can’t sue — for whatever reason — and your employers are so unhelpful (that’s a euphemism) it doesn’t seem worth struggling on. (All these were true for me.)

Answer 4: I too understand that you have three years (not two, as suggested) in which to make a claim, but be aware that the clock is running from the moment that YOU suspected you had RSI, (so I was informed by lawyers), NOT from when you get a confirmed diagnosis. Can you contact your consultant and ask him to send his diagnosis of what you have and most important what it was caused by, both to you, with copy for your employers (whilst you are still employed by them)? My employers and their in-house doctors tried to deny my consultant had said in a written letter to them/me that what I had were work-related injuries CAUSED by typing at work, and they also claimed carpel tunnel syndrome could not be a typing injury, amongst other things, and if I had not written to the consultant privately and begged him to send a letter refuting this, they would still be denying it.

You might think that having got that diagnosis (and the consultant’s offer to go to court on my behalf) I would be laughing, as it were, but I found out things aren’t so easy. You then have to find a lawyer who will take your case. If you have previously suffered from any sort of stress which is on your medical records, I think you can safely say forget it, your lawyer won’t be interested, no matter how good your other evidence (I had stacks of it – work records, witness statements, confirming letters from doctors – all to no avail.) And you have to go through an awful lot more stress in the courts. Fortunately, I was able to keep my job using voice-activated software, or else I’d have been in a real fix employment-wise. Good luck anyway. I hope my two-pen north helps, but I’m aware we have a health and safety professional on this list who I’m sure can advise you much better than I can. PS – yes, all of us RSI cripples believe in taking great care <grin>. Or was that a verb?

Answer 5: It’s three years to bring a case, but to do that you have to begin preparing it not later than two years. That having been said, out-of-time cases can be brought, and exacerbation of injury could be a consideration too. It is two years from the time you first thought the injury/symptoms might be related to your work. (The lawyers who advertise by name or anonymously always say “within the last two years”.) BTW while medical ‘evidence’ of previous stress (i.e. depression etc., not quite the same thing) is a real problem, my Union was going to bring in their lawyers re disability discrimination anyway if my application for early retirement failed. And since then there have been some important cases in discrimination and stress — mine would though have been discrimination/RSI. That reminds me: I rather think if they could say that to me with such assurance without my ever having seen their lawyers, then it must be Unions who decide whether cases get backed, not Union solicitors.

Answer 6: This does not give answers to your questions but I have been told that you have 3 years from the time of the diagnoses to make your claim against your employer. I have similar questions/reservations to you. If you get more advice please let me know.

Answer 7: I am sorry to write about this again, but the legal situation is important:

  1. The three years relates to the bringing of proceedings. Normally you should begin the process at the end of two years at the latest.
  2. However out-of-time cases can be brought and are: but it is best not to rely on that fact, application has to be made to a Court for leave to bring them, and applications have been turned down both initially and on appeal.
  3. The clock starts ticking when the injured person first has reason to believe their symptoms are related to their work, not when a formal diagnosis is made. (In my case there were fewer than 10 days between the two, on the broadest possible interpretation of “related to work”, but other people might have a gap that actually mattered.)

My information comes from lawyers and from reading law reports — and elsewhere — see also the piece on the RSI UK pages(litigate. txt, already suggested) by a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. You are at the _crucial_ stage — I now think it no coincidence that it was at that stage that my Dept Head’s ill-treatment of me changed into bullying and harassment and time-consuming demands for this-that and allegations that I had not followed sick leave rules (untrue). But perhaps I credit him with too much intelligence… (And I have to bear in mind that he “had problems”, particularly bad at that time!)

I urge you to see your Union, an equal opportunities adviser if your company has one, a disabilities’ adviser ditto, and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (preferably on a day when a solicitor is there). You might also talk to MIND, and/or a disability organization — good work has been done on pre-existing stress. (MIND does fund cases, it was going to back a major case that was won in the High Court — someone else funded it instead.) Finally I have no wish to push anyone into suing but I do think you need to look at all the options (I have a feeling the argument that your redundancy is discriminatory may be the best bet)

But as you are thinking of suing; to be honest, I don’t think you’re formulating your possible case as well as it could be formulated: ask a lawyer or union official about that! I have some WHICH books, e.g. the WHICH Guide to Employment Law; they’re useful. I recommend them. (Unfortunately my copies are in my house in York.) They will help you sort out the three-year two-year apparent confusion. (To spell it out more:  three years is the formal legal deadline under limitations statutes for bringing a case, you need, normally, to allow a year before that to prepare for bringing it, hence my, and injury lawyers’, _two years_. Litigate.txt contains grounds for application to bring a case _out of time_ i.e. after three years. NB 3 years is the deadline for personal injury cases, some torts’ limitations are longer.)


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