A Guide to Claiming Occupational Asthma Compensation

This easy-to-follow guide sets out what you need to know about making a successful occupational asthma compensation claim.

Introduction

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently reported that there were an estimated 177 new cases of occupational asthma seen by chest physicians in one year. Undiagnosed figures for wider work-related asthma cases (asthma caused or made worse by work) are estimated to be more than 10 times higher.

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition and causes a narrowing of the bronchial walls. Commonly triggered by dust, pollen and exercise, asthma is also the subject of compensation claims for workplace-related illness following exposure to allergens or chemicals found in the work environment.

Industial air pollution

Do I have a occupational asthma claim?

You should be eligible to make a occupational asthma injury claim if you were injured:

  • in the last three years and,
  • someone else was at fault.

However, if these two points don't apply, a claim may still be possible.

It costs nothing to find out - speak to a legally trained adviser on 0800 612 7456.

A short call will tell you exactly where you stand. You will never be pressured into making a claim.

You can also find out if you have a claim with our Online Claim Checker.

What if the injury was diagnosed years after the event?

Typically, the dates of the injury and accident are the same. However, some injuries manifest themselves months or even years after the accident or exposure.

In this case, the clock starts ticking on the date of discovery (the date of diagnosis) of the injury rather than the date of the accident.

Read more

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How much compensation can I claim for a occupational asthma?

The amount of money you could claim for your occupational asthma will depend on:

  • the extent of your injury, and
  • any financial losses or costs you have incurred.

At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your occupational asthma has affected your life. Your solicitor will take all of these effects into account to calculate the correct compensation award for you.

This calculation will factor in general damages and special damages.

General damages

General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).

Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.

Special damages

Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.

See a list of what you can claim for:

Examples of special damages include:

  • Lost earnings (including future earnings)
  • Medical treatment costs
  • Physiotherapy
  • Travel costs
  • Costs of care
  • Costs of adapting your home or car

Find out what your claim could be worth now

Assessing a claim's value at the outset can be complicated.

If you would like a FREE claim estimate with no obligation to start a claim, call 0800 612 7456.

Alternatively, our compensation calculator will give you an instant estimate of what your claim is worth.

Calculate my injury claim

Caring and sensitive support

Your solicitor will handle your occupational asthma case from the initial consultation through to the financial settlement. In addition, your solicitor will work with other specialists to help you with:

  • Financial support: interim payments while you are unable to work.
  • Advice: on personal injury trusts, tax and welfare benefits.
  • Coordination: with rehabilitation providers and therapists.
  • Access: to treatment and therapies not always available on the NHS.

Industries with the most asthma-related claims

Occupational asthma can occur in a range of industries. However, the HSE report that the manufacturing industry has the highest incidence of occupational asthma (3 cases per 100,000 per year). Manufacturers of motor vehicles, food products and basic metals are identified as having the most cases.

What substances cause occupational asthma?

Isocyanates and flour/grain are recognised as the agents responsible for the highest proportion of new cases of occupational asthma and exposure to these substances is frequently cited in claims.

Isocyanates are widely used in the manufacture of foams, fibres and coatings such as paints and varnishes. Vehicle paint technicians have the highest incidence rate. For flour/grain exposure, bakers are most commonly affected.

Other common agents known to cause occupational asthma include:

  • Wood dusts
  • Solder/colophony
  • Stainless steel welding
  • Laboratory animals
  • Hardening agents
  • Latex
  • Cleaning products
  • Enzymes/amylase
  • Cutting oils and coolants

Diagnosing occupational asthma

The severity of asthma symptoms varies from person to person. In many cases it is controllable, whilst in others more persistent problems including a permanent narrowing of the bronchial walls can occur.

Asthma symptoms can gradually or suddenly get worse leading to an asthma attack.

Asthma caused by work factors falls into two main categories:

  • Allergic occupational asthma - this is seen in the majority of cases and typically occurs a period of time after exposure
  • Irritant-induced occupational asthma - typically occurs a few hours following exposure to high levels of gas, fume and vapour

Diagnosis is not always straightforward, particularly in allergic occupational asthma. This is because the symptoms - which include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness - are similar to a range of lung diseases.

The injury claim medical report

A medical report confirming the asthma diagnosis will be a key piece of evidence in support of a claim. This report will be arranged by the claimant's solicitor.

An independent doctor will ask questions regarding work and medical history, recent symptoms and family history of asthma or allergies. The doctor may also carry out lung function tests.

If asthma is diagnosed and considered to be the result of workplace exposure, a solicitor can advise on the next steps.

The law regarding occupational asthma

Occupational asthma is a preventable condition, and the responsibility to take all reasonable steps to prevent it lies with the employer.

Under the Health and Safety and Work etc Act 1974, employers have a legal duty to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees. This includes carrying out a risk assessment of the workplace and putting in 'reasonable' measures to protect staff from any dangers.

More specifically, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH) requires employers to manage exposure to dangerous substances where they cannot be removed or substituted - which includes chemicals and allergens.

If an employer fails to do any of the following, and a person develops occupational asthma as a result, this may amount to negligence. The employer must:

  • Minimise the emission, release and spread of substances known to cause or potentially cause asthma
  • Ensure adequate air filtration systems are installed and maintained
  • Provide suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as breathing apparatus
  • Provide staff training on the risks and how to effectively apply the controls
  • Continually review the risks and update procedures as required

A solicitor can advise on what evidence would be needed to prove negligence. This evidence will usually include medical reports and an employer's health and safety records.

How does no win, no fee work?

No win, no fee removes the risk from making a occupational asthma claim. If you don't win any compensation, you won't have to pay your solicitor any legal fees.

No win, no fee guarantee

Our no win, no fee guarantee means there is zero financial risk in making a occupational asthma claim, even if you don't win your claim.

What do I pay if I win my occupational asthma claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, once your claim is settled. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. Your solicitor will agree a success fee with you before you start your claim.

What do I pay if I do not win my occupational asthma claim?

If your occupational asthma claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees .

Read more about No win, no fee

How can Quittance help?

Our highly experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning work accident claims. Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you.

If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:

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Occupational Asthma FAQ's

Can I claim for someone else?

Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.

If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.

The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.

Read more about claiming on behalf of another person.

Can I claim if I was partly responsible for an accident?

You may still be able to claim compensation even if you contributed to your accident or to your injuries.

However, if you were partly to blame (known as contributory negligence), your compensation may be reduced and it may be more difficult to prove liability.

Read more about claiming compensation if you were partly responsible for an accident.

How long will my claim take?

The length of time needed to secure compensation can vary considerably.

For example, straightforward car accident claims can settle in a matter of weeks, whereas complex medical negligence cases can take years.

Injury claims can also take longer if it is not clear who is responsible for your injury, or if liability is denied by the defendant.

Taken from average case times, this table sets out approximately how long personal injury claims take to settle:

Personal injury claim type

Estimated claim duration*

Road accident claims

4 to 9 months

Work accident claims

6 to 9 months

Medical negligence claims

12 to 36 months

Industrial disease claims

12 to 18 months

Public place or occupiers’ liability claims

6 to 9 months

MIB claims (uninsured drivers)

3 to 4 months**

CICA claims (criminal assault)

12 to 18 months**

*RTA and other claims processed through the Ministry of Justice portal can settle faster.
**Official Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) Government agency and Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) figures.

Read more about how long personal injury claims take.

Will I have to go to court?

Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by Quittance’s solicitor panel are settled out of court.

Only a very small percentage (approx. 5%) of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.

Cases that do ultimately go to court are held in front of a judge, not a jury.

Read more: Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

Will I have to go to a solicitor's office?

No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. As with most professional services, it is no longer necessary to meet face to face with your solicitor. Personal injury claims are dealt with via email, post and telephone.

Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.

Read more: Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

Can I get an interim compensation payment?

If you suffer financial hardship as a result of an injury, you may be able to claim interim compensation payments.

An interim payment is a partial settlement of your claim which is paid before your claim is concluded. The amount you receive in interim payments would then be deducted from your final compensation settlement or award.

Read more about interim compensation payments.

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert