A Guide to Claiming Hazardous Substances Compensation

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a hazardous substance injury we can help.

The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered a hazardous substance injury and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.

Introduction

The most common occurrences of exposure to hazardous substances occur in the workplace. There is a particular risk 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, however. Compensation claims following exposure to soil contaminants, pesticides and weed killers are not unusual.

Read more: Claiming compensation for an injury or illness at work

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 your employer has been negligent in their obligations and you have sustained an injury, you may be entitled to claim compensation

Hazardous substances in the environment

Dangerous substances can also be found outside the workplace.

Every year there are around 300 cases of Legionnaires' Disease in the UK. Legionnaire's disease is caused by inhaling air containing tiny droplets of water infected with Legionella pneumophila, or by drinking infected water.

See the latest 2019 statistics published by the HSE.

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

Source: HSE

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, and;
  • that person owed you a duty of care.

Find out whether you may have a claim with our Online Claim Checker:

Check my claim

What are the exceptions?

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.

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.

What if there is no evidence?

Evidence can take the form of eyewitness accounts, CCTV footage, photographs etc. It will be difficult to win a hazardous substances claim with no evidence at all. You may feel that there is no evidence but a solictor may well be able to assist in collating evidence that you, as a claimant, were unaware of.

Can I claim if the hazardous substances made an existing injury worse?

Yes, although demonstrating this can be more difficult, so legal and medical advice should be sought as early as possible.

How can compensation 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 Quittance has helped others

Quittance's panel of solicitors has helped clients injured in a broad range 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

How much compensation can I claim for 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.

What can I claim for after a hazardous substances? (see list)

Examples of special damages (losses you can claim for) include:

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

What is the average injury compensation for a hazardous substances claim?

The Judicial College injury tables give a approximate idea of the ranges awarded for different injuries.

However, the money you would receive following a hazardous substances will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

Your hazardous substances compensation will be calculated based on the unique impact your injuries have had on your life, your ability to work, and the actual financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries.

See the injury table above for some examples.

What if I am not yet sure of the extent of my injury?

If you have not yet sought medical attention, your solicitor will arrange a medical assessment for you ASAP. If you are awaiting test results, a claim can still be started. Once the extent of the injuries are known, the settlement can be calculated.

Hazardous substances compensation calculator

Calculating how much compensation you can claim for a hazardous substances injury can be complicated.

Our injury compensation calculator tells you if you may have a claim, how much compensation you could claim, and what you can claim for.

Find out what your hazardous substances claim could be worth now:

Calculate compensation

How long do I have to make a hazardous substances claim?

In general, you have a time limit of up to 3 years from the date of the hazardous substances to make an injury claim.

The last date you can make a claim is known as the claim limitation date - after which your hazardous substances claim becomes 'statute barred'.

Can I claim for a hazardous substances after 3 years?

Possibly. The general rule for adults is that a claim must be started within three years.

However, the three-year countdown starts on the day you learned of your injury or illness. This will usually be the date of the accident, but could be the date your doctor gave you a diagnosis.

If you were injured as a child, you do have up until your 21st birthday to make a claim.

There other circumstances that can also impact the limitation date. Call us now on 0800 612 7456 to find out if you are still able to claim hazardous substances compensation.

In reality, there are a number of factors that can affect whether a hazardous substances claim will be taken on by a solicitor.

Will I still be able to claim for a hazardous substances after the law changes in April 2020?

The law relating to personal injury claims is changing in April 2020.

You will no longer be able to claim no win, no fee compensation using a solicitor for lower value claims (under £5,000).

In addition, compensation for whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries will be reduced.

Caring and sensitive support

Your solicitor will handle your hazardous substances claim 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 benefit the injured party to reject an initial offer to settle as this approach can result in a larger compensation settlement.

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.

How did your injury occur?

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

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 do personal injury solicitors get paid?

If your hazardous substances claim is successful, the defendant, or their insurer, will pay the compensation and your solicitors fees.

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 early compensation payment?

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

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