A Guide to Claiming Hazardous Substances Compensation

This guide sets out what you need to know about making a hazardous substances compensation claim.


The most common occurrences of exposure to hazardous substances occur in the workplace, particularly in industries where toxic chemicals and fumes may be encountered if proper safety precautions are not followed.

Hazardous substance exposure is not just limited to the workplace, with claims for exposure to soil contaminants, pesticides and weed killers being successfully brought.

Hazardous substances at work

Every year, thousands of people experience pain and hardship as a result of contracting illnesses like lung disease, asthma, cancer, and dermatitis following exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace.

Employers have a legal responsibility for providing a safe working environment for employees. Specifically "The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations" (COSHH) are detailed regulations designed to protect employees from the danger of exposure to chemicals and other substances in the workplace.

If you employer has been negligent in their obligations and you have sustained and injury as a result, you may be entitled to claim compensation

Hazardous substances in the environment

Hazardous substances can also be found outside the workplace. There were 286 reported cases of Legionnaires' disease (caused by inhaling air containing tiny droplets of water infected with Legionella pneumophila or by drinking infected water) in 2013.

Another example are the 50-60 cases of Leptospirosis (known as Weil's disease) reported each year, where appropriate precautions to prevent water being infected by animals were not taken.

Toxic waste

Industrial disasters and illegal dumping of toxic waste can result in serious illness affecting members of the public.

Deliberate dumping of toxic waste rarely occurs in the UK. If a toxic substance has been released into the environment as a result of a company's negligence, however, and one or more people become ill as a result, it may be possible to make a claim for compensation.

Hazardous chemicals masthead

Do I have a hazardous substances claim?

It should be possible to make a hazardous substances claim if your injury happened:

  • within the last three years and,
  • another person was to blame.

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

It costs nothing to find out - speak to one of our experts on 0800 612 7456.

A brief phone consultation will confirm whether you have a claim. You will be under no obligation to start a claim with Quittance.

Alternatively you can try our Online Claim Checker.

What if it was a criminal incident?

If your Hazardous Substances injury resulted from a criminal incident, you can pursue a claim via the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). The CICA must receive your application within 2 years of the Incident Date.

Read more

What if a child was injured?

The 3 year rule does not apply to minors.

A claim can be pursued for anyone under the age of 18 by a parent, guardian or litigation friend. The injured child has up to the age of 21 to start a hazardous substances claim on their own behalf.

Read more about claiming injury compensation on behalf of a child.

Check my claim online

Eligibility to claim and time limits for hazardous substance claims

To be eligible to make an injury compensation claim following exposure to a hazardous substance, you must:

  • have sustained an injury within the last three years as a result of an accident either at your place of work or elsewhere while working for your employer
  • be able to establish that another entity (e.g. a company, authority or individual) was legally responsible for the accident
  • be able to evidence that your injuries were sustained as a result of the exposure

How compensation can help you?

For the consequences of an accident or illness, financial compensation is often an inadequate substitute. Nevertheless, personal injury law is founded on the idea that compensation will aim to put the injured party back in the position they would have been in if the accident or illness had never happened.

A settlement or Court award cannot alter what has happened, but it should have a positive impact on your present circumstances and future recovery.

Injuries resulting from exposure to a hazardous substance can have significant consequences for the injured person and their dependants. Quittance's panel of specialist solicitors have years of experience securing compensation awards:

  • for medical treatment and ongoing care costs
  • for other expenses such as damage to personal possessions and travel costs
  • for any pain and suffering and loss of amenity
  • for lost earnings while you recover
  • for future loss of earnings if you are unable to return to work

How Can Quittance help you?

Solicitors acknowledge how critical your recovery is. Considering the circumstances of your accident or illness, they will adjust their approach to give your claim the best chance of success.

Many people considering a claim would like to discuss their options before going ahead. They are available to discuss your options in a no-obligation consultation.

Guiding injured parties to a successful outcome by negotiating compensation, Quittance's solicitors have acted for clients injured in a broad set of circumstances. Court awards and settlements have been negotiated for injuries including:

  • Air pollution
  • Arsenic poisoning
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Contaminated soil
  • E-Coli poisoning
  • Industrial dermatitis
  • Legionnaires' disease
  • Lead poisoning
  • Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) exposure
  • Perchlorate exposure
  • Pesticide poisoning
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) poisoning
  • PVC exposure
  • Radiation sickness
  • Teflon exposure
  • Trichloroethylene poisoning

So you can focus on recovery, Quittance's solicitors take care of the negotiation and legal work.

Claimants are generally relieved to learn that injury claims rarely go to Court.

How much compensation can I claim for a hazardous substances?

The amount of money you could claim for your hazardous substances 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 hazardous substances 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 hazardous substances 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.

How long will it take to get compensation?

Some PI claims can be relatively straightforward and financial compensation is agreed in a relatively short time frame. Claims involving more complex or severe injuries will most likely take a longer amount of time to resolve. Certain key factors can only delay the process - for example if the other party does not accept responsibility or if there is an apportionment of blame between the claimant and the defendant.

As there is no formula, it can be virtually impossible to forecast the length of time it will take to reach a settlement . Often it can actually benefit the injured party to reject an initial offer to settle as this approach can result in a larger compensation settlement.

You can get a better estimate of how long your claim should take by speaking to a hazardous substance injury claims specialist on free phone 0800 612 7456 or by obtaining a detailed Compensation Report.

How likely is your claim to succeed?

If the negligent party, e.g. your employer, has admitted liability then the chances of your compensation claim being successful are very good.

However, if liability is contested or perhaps only accepted in part, achieving a settlement will be more difficult. Personal injury solicitors are used to working on contentious matters so the fact that the defendant has not admitted liability should not deter you from making a claim.

A solicitor will help collate and assess all of the evidence at hand and advise you on constructing the strongest possible case.

Frequently asked questions and hazardous substance claims advice

We recognise that potential claimants will probably have questions when evaluating whether to start a compensation claim. For general answers to questions relating to PI claims work, e.g. "Can a claim be made on behalf of another person ", why not go to our general FAQ section

How did your injury occur?

The claims process that your solicitor follows will vary, depending on how the injury occurred:

At work

If you are thinking of making a work accident or injury claim, there are some key points to be aware of:

Work Accident Claims - What you need to know

In a road accident

If you are thinking of making a road accident claim, there are some key points to be aware of:

Road Accident Claims - What you need to know

In a public place (e.g. supermarket, pavement)

If you have been injured in a public place, there are some key points you need to be aware of:

Public Place Claims - What you need to know

Medical negligence

According to the latest figures published in 2019, there were over 17,000 clinical negligence claims in the year 2016-17. This increase is largely down to an overstretched NHS.

If you are thinking of making a medical negligence claim, there are some key points to be aware of:

Clinical Negligence Claims - What you need to know

Other claim types

Find details on another type of claim:

See list of other claims

No win, no fee - the facts

With a no win, no fee agreement, your solicitor agrees that you will have no legal fees to pay if you do not winn your claim .

Our no win, no fee guarantee

If you have been injured and it wasn't your fault, our no win, no fee guarantee takes the risk out of making a hazardous substances injury compensation claim.

What do I pay if I win my hazardous substances claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, only after your compensation is awarded. 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 hazardous substances claim?

If your hazardous substances claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees whatsoever.

Read more about how no win, no fee works

How can Quittance help?

Our highly experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning injury 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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Hazardous Substances 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