A delivery driver who was forced to leave his job after injuring his spine at work fears he will never find alternative employment.

Unite member John Atkin, 49, from Sunderland, has received £22,000 in compensation following the accident while working for Johnston Press.

John was off work for eight months before being forced to leave the company. He is looking for alternative work but is limited in the type of job he can do.

He used to run a pottery business but can no longer return to that type of work.

He was delivering newspapers and leaflets in Northumberland when the accident happened in February 2007.

Badly loaded van

Whilst he was driving the load moved around blocking the side door with pallets of newspapers and leaflets. He went into the back of the van to sort the problem but the pallets hadn’t been loaded in delivery order meaning he had to move them around. The small space and awkward position meant he damaged his back.

He suffered injuries to his cervical spine which affects his upper back and right arm and shoulder. He has been warned to avoid lifting. John had pre-existing problems with his spine although this was not causing him to suffer any symptoms. The accident brought on the appearance of the symptoms by five to ten years.

Following the accident he contacted his union, Unite, which instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors.

Employers admitted Liability

Thompsons was successful in settling the claim out of court after Johnston Press admitted liability.

John said: “The union had complained about the way the vans were packed for some time. When my accident happened I decided to claim compensation because I thought it might make my employer sit up and take notice of our complaints.

“I understand that the problem has now been solved. Unfortunately it’s too late for me.”

Davey Hall regional secretary at Unite added: “Mr Atkin is now looking for alternative work in what is a difficult climate for job hunters, particularly for those who are limited in the type of work they can undertake. Hopefully this compensation will give him some breathing space until he is able to find appropriate work.”

Nicola Waugh from Thompsons Solicitors added: “This injury could have been avoided had Johnston Press had a system in place to make sure loads were secure to stop them moving around in transit.

“Mr Atkin’s damages reflect the loss of earnings he suffered while off work and also includes an element of continued loss of earnings in the future until he is able to find a new job.”