Peter M's story

Unite Legal Services was there for me throughout the case which proved to be very complex. It was reassuring to know I had the full backing of the union behind me.

Unite the union member, Peter, was carrying out his day-to-day activities in the workplace when he was seriously injured by a forklift, which was operated by an uninsured driver. He contacted Unite Legal Services who, upon investigating, discovered the forklift driver to be a relative of Peter’s colleague who had taken the equipment without the owner's permission to assist them at work. The forklift driver was also unemployed at the time of the accident. 

Due to the forklift driver’s unemployment and lack of insurance, money or assets, Unite Legal Services argued that the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) was responsible for paying compensation to account for Peter’s suffering. However, the MIB claimed UK law states forklifts are not vehicles and so they were not required to pay any damages. 

Unite Legal Services therefore had to prove that a forklift was, in fact, a vehicle under UK legislation in order to secure damages from the MIB. 

In the UK, the law suggests a forklift is not a vehicle. However, European law suggests otherwise as demonstrated in the European Court of Justice’s ruling in the case of Damian Vnuk, which involved an off-road tractor. Using this example, Unite Legal Services pursued a claim against the driver, the forklift owner and the driver’s employer. 

Determined that Peter would not miss out on compensation based on a legal technicality, Unite Legal Services also argued that if Peter’s case did not succeed, it would be due to the government’s failure to correctly enact European directives. In those circumstances, a claim against the government for that failure would be pursued. This is called a Frankovich claim. It allows the court to strike out an act of parliament in the event that it has not been properly enacted. As a result, the case was listed for hearing on a preliminary issue - namely whether the forklift was a vehicle for the purposes of the Road Traffic Act. 

Rather than have the case go to a hearing, the MIB agreed and accepted that a forklift constituted as a vehicle under the Road Traffic Act, which meant they had to pay Peter damages and also to pay the costs of the government defending the Frankovich claim. 

Unite Legal Services successfully helped Peter to secure a six-figure sum with no deductions. 

Commenting on the case, Peter said:

“You never think it’s going to happen to you. As a member of Unite, I can only highly recommend everyone in a workplace joins a union. 

“After suffering a serious accident in my workplace, Unite Legal Services was there for me from day one. My union representative kept me informed throughout my case, which I thank him for. 

“Because the forklift was uninsured and the driver had no resources, I was worried. But Unite Legal Services persisted and I got the result I needed. 

“Unite Legal Services was there for me throughout the case which proved to be very complex. It was reassuring to know I had the full backing of the union behind me.” 

*Names may have been changed to protect the identity of our member