Ross Knowles, 50, from Upton, had been working as a heavy goods driver for Buckley Farm Dairy, in Denby Dale, when the accident happened.
The father-of- two had been delivering pallets of milk, but fell off the back of the truck when unloading at a customer’s base in Peterborough. He was knocked unconscious, causing damage to his spine and a number of vertebrae.
Having been left unable to work, Mr Knowles launched an accident at work legal claim against his employers through personal injury specialists Hudgell Solicitors.
A lack of ladders at the back of the truck was highlighted as placing Mr Knowles at risk of injury when doing a physically demanding job at height, and resulted in the business admitting liability for the accident.
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Mr Knowles has since had to move into a bungalow, as he can no longer tackle stairs and is struggling with constant pain. Day to day tasks, such as getting into and out of a bath, have even become too difficult.
He says he had previously raised concerns about the safety risks of the job, leaving him angry as his injury means he is currently out of work, and will have to find a less physical working role in the future.
“I was the only staff member who had to unload my own trailer that way and I had already pointed out a few times that there needed to be steps to help me get in and out,” he said.
“As there were no steps in the trailer at the back, I had to climb to tip the load. This meant I had to climb into the 40ft trailer and pull more than 20 pallets to the edge, one at a time, before using a forklift to lift them down.”
Recalling the accident, Mr Knowles, who was previously a powerlifter and trained six days per week, said he was coming towards the end of his delivery when he fell in March 2015.
“I was the fittest driver there and no one else wanted to do that physical side of the job, so I was on my own. The pallets weighed about three quarters of a tonne each and it was a very warm day. I’d got to the last four pallets, so I was really tired,” he said.
“As I climbed back into the trailer, I lost my grip on the handle and I fell onto my back. There should have been steps there.
“I knocked myself out and woke up about 20 minutes later. I can’t believe my life has changed so much since. At 49, I was a fitness enthusiast. Now, a year later, I look in the mirror and think ‘what has happened to me’.
“It’s ruined my life. I can’t have a relationship because of the medication I’m on, I can’t train or walk far, and I’ve had to move into a one bedroom bungalow with a wet room because I can’t get up the stairs. I can’t sleep or get comfortable and arthritis is also starting in my shoulder.
“I’ve had to spend £700 on a new bed to try and make myself as comfortable as possible, and the solicitors also arranged for me to have a made-to- measure chair to keep me comfortable at home, which was really helpful.
“The pain in my lower back means I can’t get into a bath. I’m on incapacity benefit and I can’t work because of my medical condition and the pain I’m in. I don’t think I will get my HGV licence back and I’ll be on medication for the rest of my life.”
Hudgell Solicitors alleged there should have been steps at the back of the truck for safety and Mr Knowles would have used them had they been in place. In response to the allegations, the employer admitted liability, with insurers agreeing to the £39,000 settlement.
Mr Knowles suffered soft tissue injury to his lower back as a result of the accident. The legal case ensured Mr Knowles was able to benefit from a hardship loan to help compensate for his loss of earnings, whilst his damages settlement has also reflected his pain and suffering as the result of his injuries. He has also benefitted from sessions of physiotherapy, as well as seeing a private chiropractor.
However, he now wonders what the future holds in terms of his earning ability given his physical limitations, as he sometimes needs the aid of a stick to walk, and has suffered with depression since the accident.
“I would love to go back to work at some stage. But I don’t know what else I can do. I’ll have to see what the doctor says because I’m very limited now. If I carry too much, my back goes,” he said.
“I used to earn £555 a week but I can’t do that now. Hudgell Solicitors have been very good to me, but at the end of the day no amount of money can compensate for being in constant pain and a loss of physical health.”
Katy Nelson, the solicitor who acted on Mr Knowles’ behalf, said the significant damages settlement had reflected the impact the accident has had on his life.
“This accident has had a significant impact on Mr Knowles’ quality of life and as a result of his fall that day, his life has changed considerably,” she said.
“It is paramount that companies meet all health and safety requirements to ensure their staff are protected at all times, and it is particularly dangerous when standards are not met and employees are carrying out heavy and demanding physical work, or working at heights, as Mr Knowles was.
“He really went through a difficult time initially, as financially his inability to work had a big impact on him. He found himself in financial dire straits and it was important for us to arrange a hardship loan for him as we investigated his case.
“I’m pleased we were able to secure this financial settlement for the injuries and pain he suffered during his accident at work and hope that it helps him during what have been tough times.”