Employment & labor law /

Accident at work. What to do? How much compensation in 2024?

Every employer is concerned about accidents at work for their employees. This is among other things because of the many consequences that follow. We are talking about the need to establish the exact circumstances of the accident or the payment of compensation.

Many employers then wonder how large the amount of workers compensation for an accident at work can be? Does the employer bear this cost from his own budget? The answer to this question can be found in this article.

What is the definition of accident at work?

When an employer learns that its employee has suffered an accident, it is crucial to establish whether this was a work-related accident or a non-occupational event.

But how can the two situations be distinguished?

The employer should carefully assess the nature of the incident, paying attention to several relevant factors:

  • Suddenness of the event – did the accident occur suddenly?
  • External cause – did it occur due to an external factor?
  • Relationship to work – did the incident occur while the employee was performing his job duties?
  • Consequences – did the accident lead to injury or death of the employee?

If all these elements are present at the same time, an accident at work can be unequivocally concluded. However, there are situations in which the existence of the preconditions for an accident at work is not obvious.

The answer whether an event is an accident at work is then given by the post-accident investigation, which the employer is always obliged to carry out.

What can a work accident be? Types and their characteristics

Accidents at work are a very important and extremely topical issue, especially in the context of every employer’s primary duty to provide safe and healthy working conditions. Accidents at work can vary in form and severity and can be very serious, even leading to the death of the worker.

Let’s take a meticulous look at the different types of accidents that can occur in the workplace:

  • Fatal occupational accident – a situation in which an employee died as a result of an accident, and his death occurred within 6 months from the date of the incident.
  • Severe occupational accident – an event that leads to injuries sustained to long-term impairment, i.e. severe bodily injury, such as loss of sight, hearing, speech, reproductive capacity or other serious impairment and permanent disability.
  • Light work accident – a type of accident that is not life-threatening, but causes temporary incapacity. It is also any other mishap that does not have the characteristics of a fatal or serious occupational accident.
  • Collective work accident – an event in which at least 2 people are injured.

Accident at work

What compensation for an accident at work?

The fact that a certain event has been recognized as an accident at work does not always mean that the employer will have to pay compensation from its own budget. In the first instance, the one-off compensation is paid to the employee by the Social Insurance Institution. 

Such compensation is due to the employee who has suffered permanent or long-term damage to his or her health as a result of the accident, or to his or her family – in the event of the employee’s death.

The single indemnity is covered by social insurance contributions, more specifically by the accident insurance. As an employer, you make a contribution to the accident insurance each month from the salary owed to the employee.

Therefore, if you are an employer, you do not need to be concerned that every accident at work will result in a huge amount of compensation to be paid to you.

What is the current amount of one-time workers compensation awarded by the Social Security?

The rates of one-time compensation from Social Security for an accident at work change every year. As of April 1, 2024, the new higher rates of workers compensation, set by the announcement of the Minister of Family, Labor and Social Policy dated February 21, 2024, apply.

According to the announcement, from April 1, 2024 to March 31, 2025, the new amount of single workers’ compensation due as a result of an accident is regulated. The Social Insurance Institution will pay compensation to eligible persons in the amount of PLN 1431 for each percentage of permanent or long-term impairment. This is more than PLN 150 more than in 2023. The amount was previously PLN 1269 per 1 percent impairment.

The percentage of permanent or long-term impairment, which is important for one-time workers’ compensation, is determined during the examination of the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) examiner. To calculate the amount of compensation due, the established percentage must be multiplied by the indicated amount per 1% of the injury.

For example, one-time compensation for 3% of the damage will be 4293 PLN (3 x 1431 PLN). After completing the documents and performing a detailed analysis, the Social Security medical committee will issue a ruling on the payment of compensation to eligible persons.

The announcement also shows that the workers’ compensation for declaring an insured’s total inability to work and inability to live independently will be PLN 25,044 from April 1, 2024.

If an employee dies as a result of an accident, eligible family members of the insured can claim compensation. Then the amount of single compensation due to the spouse, or child of the deceased is PLN 128,799. The notice also regulates other cases and amounts of one-time compensation.

As of April 1, 2024, new higher rates of worker's compensation from Social Security for a work-related accident will apply

When will the employer pay for the workers’ compensation claim out of his own pocket?

When the one-off compensation paid by the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) proves to be insufficient to cover the employee’s damage resulting from the accident (e.g., medical or rehabilitation costs, but also non-material damage, i.e., suffering in connection with the accident, for example), the employee may demand that the employer pays additional compensation.

In this situation, the employee must prove that the employer is responsible for the accident – i.e., prove that the accident was the employer’s fault (e.g., lack of proper health and safety conditions at the workplace) or that the employer is liable for it on a strict liability basis (e.g., due to the type of business conducted).

Then, in order to claim compensation, the employee must meet several important conditions:

  • prove that the accident qualifies as an accident at work,
  • demonstrate the amount of damage suffered,
  • demonstrate the causal link between the damage and the work accident.

What is the amount of compensation for an accident at work or occupational disease?

The amount of compensation that an employee can claim from an employer is not limited by any cap. In the event of a dispute, its amount is verified by a civil court in a compensation trial.

The court, in addition to the general circumstances of the case, such as e.g. the extent of the injury, the consequences for the future, the degree of the employer’s culpability, also takes into account the amount of the previously paid, one-off compensation that the employee received from the Social Insurance Institution.

The employee may request not only supplementary compensation from the employer, but also compensation for non-material damage or pension. In addition, the family of the deceased employee has the right to claim compensation, to which the spouse and children are entitled in the event of the employee’s death due to an accident.

How to avoid additional liability for compensation due to an accident at work?

As an employer, you should always ensure that employees comply with health and safety rules. Regular health and safety training and occupational health examinations are also important. Remember that proper health and safety practices can protect you from additional compensation liability for a workplace accident.

Are you looking for professional support in dealing with an accident at work? Do you want to learn how to handle a work accident compensation lawsuit? Contact our labor law specialists at: [email protected]


Author team leader DKP Legal Joanna Kowal
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