Shop worker assault claim: Victim wins compensation for psychological injury

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Case study of a shop worker assault claim where the victim won compensation for psychological injury. The claim was based on the failure of the store that employed her to take adequate steps to protect her and provide support following a series of incidents at the shop where she worked.

A 2016 survey showed that nearly half of shop workers are subjected to verbal abuse and a quarter are threatened. Alarmingly 8.4% of shop workers said they had been assaulted at work.

We are regularly contacted by shop workers who have suffered physical and psychological injury while at work. In many cases the employer is at fault and is legally liable to pay the shop worker compensation.

In this particular case we were contacted by a woman who had been the manager of a large mobile phone shop at in Rotherham when a robbery had taken place at the store.  Following the robbery  the company’s Loss Prevention Officer identified the store as being at risk of further attack and recommended CCTV be installed.

However this recommendation was not carried out and a short while later the store was targeted again. This time five men rushed into the premises screaming and shouting and ripping out display models.  Our client was threatened by one of the robbers. She was terrified and feared for her safety and the safety of her customers, one of whom was heavily pregnant. Our client had activated a panic alarm but instead of this triggering a call to the police as it should have done the alarm company telephoned the store instead.  Our client managed to get most the staff and customers to the back of the store and through a security door. She was then able to call the emergency services on her mobile phone.

The police carried out an investigation into the attack, but the company refused permission for the police to make a public appeal for witnesses and therefore the robbers were not apprehended.

To her surprise our client received no meaningful support from the company.

The Loss Prevention Officer again visited the store. One of the recommendations was that dummy stock should be used on the display units and that the store should have permanent security staff.  However, these recommendations were not implemented.  Security staff only attended occasionally and when they did visit the store they did not wear uniform and therefore our client did not find them a reassuring presence that would deter would-be robbers.

The lack of security led to our client feeling anxious and hyper-vigilant. She was scared that the store would be attacked again. She had been wearing her company name badge at the time of the robbery and was fearful that the robbers would target her personally.

When our client read a news report of a different robbery she recognised one of the robbers as the man who had threatened her.  She immediately informed the police and the man was arrested and charged. This heightened our client’s anxiety. She felt sick and fearful that the man was going to come and harm her. When she was told that she would be required to give evidence at the criminal trial she became even more nervous.

This began to have an impact on her ability to cope at work.  She was worried about her safety, her heart would race and she felt constant dread.  She was wary of customers and thought she was being watched and followed after work.  She was scared that she would be targeted by the robbers.

Our client told her line manager and the Loss Prevention Officer of her fears and difficulties.  No support was forthcoming and she was just told to call the police.  Despite several conversations  nothing was done to help her and she continued to struggle.

Another incident then took place at the store. It seemed to be a potential robbery and the incident was diffused by our client who managed to get the would-be robbers out of the store. She reported the incident to the police who said they were certain she had managed to avert another robbery.

Following this, the line manager told our client that the store could have a security guard, but only for one day a week. At this point our client says “the wheels came off”. She was unable to cope any further and was signed of by her GP. She was prescribed anti-depressant medication.

During the approach to the criminal trial our client tried to obtain support from her line manager, making numerous telephone calls to him, but support was not forthcoming.

The robber pleaded guilty on the second day of the trial and our client did not have to give evidence. Nevertheless she remained very unwell, suffering debilitating mental health difficulties, struggling to sleep or to leave her house. She was ultimately dismissed from her employment as a result of her continued ill health.

We agreed to represent her in a legal action against the company for compensation for her injuries on a No Win No Fee basis.

We sent a formal Letter of Claim to her former employers. They replied saying that they considered the claim was being made ‘out of time’ as the robbery had occurred more than 3 years ago. We explained that although the robbery had happened more than 3 years ago we were alleging that the failings of the company had come later. The company had not supported our client when she was struggling with the aftermath of the robbery or the forthcoming criminal trial. The claim was therefore well within the legal time limits.

The store refused to accept that they were at fault and we therefore issued court proceedings.

A medical report was obtained from a Consultant Psychiatrist who confirmed that our client had suffered psychological harm as a result of the lack of support from her employer.

Following the service of proceedings the client’s former employers then made an offer of compensation to settle the claim out of court. On our recommendation the offer was rejected and a counter offer for a higher sum was put forward. This led to a settlement of the claim being agreed.

Our client was pleased with the outcome and said she was very relieved that her suffering had been acknowledged. She was looking forward to using some of her compensation money to have psychotherapy so she could get back to her ‘old self’.

If you require assistance with a shop worker assault claim or have suffered physical or psychological injury as a result of your employer failing to provide adequate support and protection then please call our free legal helpline on 0800 955 1038 or email us at info@sblaw.co.uk