If a chemical gas injury has set you back, we'll help you move forward
Chemical gas inhalation from spills or leaks can lead to respiratory distress, chemical burns, and long-term lung damage.
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by toxic gas inhalation, we can help. You can make a hazardous substances compensation claim with the help and support of a specialist solicitor.
In this article
Claiming chemical inhalation compensation
If you have been harmed after breathing in chemical fumes or gas, you may be entitled to claim compensation. Even if your symptoms developed years after the exposure, you have three years from the date you learned your symptoms could be linked to chemical exposure to start a claim.
You are not alone
An estimated 19,000 new work related cases of lung problems, and 12,000 lung disease deaths are reported every year (hse.gov.uk).
Employees working in a very wide range of industries are at risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Exposure commonly occurs as a result of the inhalation of gases knowingly or unknowingly given off in circumstances including manufacturing processes, cleaning products and waste processes.
Industrial disease claims and claims for hazardous chemical exposure frequently relate to cases of historic exposure. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that over 10,000 deaths each year can be linked to historic exposure.
An affected individual may not realise for some years that their illness relates to gas inhalation. The worker may not even have been aware of the exposure at all.
Expert legal advice and medical evidence can make a crucial difference to the success of these claims.
Causes of harmful fumes and gas in the workplace
To make a successful claim for chemical exposure, your solicitor will use a medical assessment, expert opinion and other evidence to identify what caused your illness or injury.
Causes of chemical and gas inhalation accidents in the workplace include:
- Spillages of a noxious substances by colleagues
- Undetected gas leaks from defective, old or damaged machinery (many toxic gases are odourless and colourless)
- Inadequate or unsuitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
If your ill health cannot be traced to a single event or cause, you may still be able to claim. An independent medical assessment will confirm if the cause of your condition is likely to be work-related chemical exposure more generally.
What chemical exposure symptoms can I claim for?
Chemical exposure can result in a wide range of symptoms that an affected worker can seek compensation for. Common symptoms include:
- Gases such as sulphur dioxide, ammonia and phosgene may cause eye, mouth, throat and nose irritation.
- Sulphuric acid and nitrogen oxide may cause irritation to the lungs with long continuous exposure permanently damaging the affected areas.
- Respiratory syndromes may be triggered where normal oxygen content of the air has been compromised by gases such as acetylene.
- Employees working in an environment that exposes them to inhalation of bauxite dust and asbestos may sustain serious lung damage.
- Skin allergy, dermatitis, chronic asthma and permanent disability of lungs have been observed by the inhalation of toluene, di-isocyanate (TDI) and amine hardeners.
- Liver, brain and kidney cells may be damaged by inhalation of certain chemicals, including carbon-tetrachloride, carbon monoxide, mercury, hydrogen, cadmium and cyanide.
You will receive compensation for the specific symptoms you have experienced, regardless of the chemical that caused your ill health.
Do I need a medical diagnosis to claim compensation?
Given the wide range of potential sources of exposure and of symptoms, specialist medical evidence is necessary to diagnose the specific condition in support of a claim.
The report will also be used to assess how much compensation you should receive, taking into account the impact, seriousness and duration of your symptoms.
Is my employer responsible for my injury?
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out wide-ranging duties on employers, and they must protect the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees.
This includes safeguarding employees from exposure to substances hazardous to their health - or where this cannot be avoided, ensuring that exposure is managed in a way that is safe.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) lists around 400 chemicals and products requiring workplace exposure limits for hazardous substances within the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). The HSE does not include asbestos as this has separate regulations.
Can I still claim for chemical exposure if I had a pre-existing medical condition?
Yes. Employers should give workers to opportunity to report if they have an existing medical condition, allergy or susceptibility to a particular chemical.
Your employer must make special provision to ensure that you are safe from an avoidable risk of chemical or gas inhalation that could cause you additional harm or worsen your condition.
If you have been exposed (or may have been exposed) to a harmful chemical, your employer should carry out regular medical examinations to monitor any effects of exposure.
Effects of exposure may vary with different people, and different levels of exposure could lead to sigificantly different degrees of harm.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 came into force on 6 April 2022.
This legislation means that employers have an obligation to provide free Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all workers, including workers who are self-employed or on a zero-hours contract.
Under the previous 1992 regulations, employers were only required to provide PPE to employees with a formal employment contract.
Employers must train employees on chemical handling and inform them of the potential risks associated with each toxic compound.
Employees must be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators, face covers, gloves and safety masks to avoid hazardous substance exposure.
If your employer committed a health and safety breach by failing to provide adequate training, PPE and a safe working environment, and you were harmed by exposure to a harmful chemical as a result, you are likely to have a strong claim.
Am I entitled to make a chemical gas inhalation claim?
In general, you can claim compensation if you were hurt:
- in the last 3 years, and;
- another person or organisation was to blame, and;
- they owed you duty of care.
Use our injury claim calculator to find out if you can claim. Or you can call 0800 376 1001 to speak to a specialist advisor. Find out in minutes if you have a claim.
What if I was partially at fault?
Personal injury claims where both the defendant and claimant share some responsibility are relatively common.
In our recent 2023 Work Injury Claimant Survey, 26.02% of injured workers thought they could be partially to blame for their accident.
You could still be able to claim even if you were partly responsible for your illness. If you were injured at work, you can claim compensation from your employer under the principle of vicarious liability - even if you or another employee caused your illness.
How long after a chemical gas inhalation injury do I have to start a claim?
An injury claim will usually need to be made within 3 years of the date or your accident or injury.
If you were injured due to someone else's negligence but didn't realise it at the time, the clock starts ticking from the 'date of knowledge' - the day you become aware of your injury.
How much compensation can I claim for a chemical inhalation injury?
The amount of money you could claim for your injury will depend on:
- the seriousness 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 injuries have affected your life. Your solicitor will take these considerations into account to calculate the correct compensation award.
Chemical gas inhalation
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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.
If it can be proved that your injury left you unable to work, special damages can be awarded for any lost earnings, loss of commission or bonuses, and loss of pension contributions. It may also be possible to claim for loss of future earnings, if the medical prognosis establishes that you won't be able to work for any period in the future.
These damages will also cover the cost of any medical procedures you might need to treat or recover from your injury such as oxygen therapy, hospital monitoring and psychological support.
Average chemical gas inhalation general damages compensation
The following chemical gas inhalation payouts refer to the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases, Sixteenth Edition by the Judicial College.These tables are used by solicitors or by the courts as a starting point when calculating your compensation.
Please note: these average figures represent general damages only, and do not include any element of special damages (e.g. lost wages).
|Asbestos disease||Moderate||Asbestosis with low respiratory disability||£13,730 to £35,000|
|Asbestos disease||Serious||Lung cancer||£32,270 to £96,230|
|Asbestos disease||Severe||Asbestosis with significant respiratory disability||£63,660 to £88,480|
|Asbestos disease||Very Severe||Mesothelioma||£63,650 to £114,460|
|Asthma||Moderate||Bronchitis and wheezing||£17,450 to £23,900|
|Brain injury||Minor||Minimal injury with full or near-complete recovery||£2,010 to £11,610|
|Brain injury||Less severe||Good recovery with a return to work and normal social life||£13,930 to £39,150|
|Brain injury||Moderate||Resulting in a lower degree of dependence||£39,150 to £199,150|
|Brain injury||Serious||Resulting in serious disability and substantial dependence on others||£199,150 to £256,370|
|Brain injury||Severe||Very severe with the need for full-time nursing care||£256,370 to £367,260|
|Chest injury||Moderate||Some permanent tissue damage but no significant long-term lung problem||£11,450 to £16,330|
|Chest injury||Moderate||Injury from inhaling toxic fumes or smoke||£4,840 to £11,450|
|Chest injury||Serious||Damage to the chest and lungs causing some continuing disability||£28,460 to £49,850|
|Dermatitis||Minor||A rash or irritation to hands||£1,550 to £3,590|
|Dermatitis||Moderate||Affecting hands with recovery expected||£7,850 to £10,370|
|Dermatitis||Serious||Affecting hands with indefinite duration||£12,490 to £17,450|
|Injury to senses|
|Injury to senses||Serious||Loss of taste||£17,450 to £22,720|
|Injury to senses||Serious||Loss of smell||£22,720 to £29,910|
|Lung disease||Minor||Short-term aggravation of bronchitis or other chest infection||Up to £4,840|
|Lung disease||Moderate||Non-permanent lung conditions||Up to £4,840|
|Lung disease||Moderate||Slight breathlessness recovery in a few years||£9,670 to £18,910|
|Lung disease||Serious||Bronchitis and wheezing||£18,910 to £28,460|
|Lung disease||Serious||Emphysema||£49,850 to £63,660|
|Lung disease||Serious||Breathing difficulties needing use of an inhaler||£28,460 to £49,850|
How did your injury happen?
The claims process will vary depending on how your chemical gas inhalation happened. Click the icons below to learn more:
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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.