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Mercury poisoning compensation claims - Introduction

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in water, soil and air. Almost all humans come into contact with some level of mercury, often through dental fillings, the consumption of shellfish and routine vaccination. Low doses of organic mercury are not considered to be a significant health threat.

However, some people are exposed to excess levels of mercury either through regular (chronic) exposure to low levels of the compound or acute exposure that occurs in a single event. An example of acute exposure would be an industrial accident that results in the spillage of mercury. Inhaled or ingested, mercury can cause breathing difficulties, eye irritation and, possibly, serious damage to the nervous and immune systems.

Industrial exposure to mercury falls within the category of hazardous substances compensation claims. Anyone who has suffered mercury poisoning after being exposed to the metal at work may be eligible make a claim against their employer.

Who is at risk of contracting a mercury-related illness?

Mercury poisoning typically occurs when a person inhales mercury in vapour form or when mercury in compound form makes contact with the skin. As such, workers in industries that use mercury regularly may have a greater risk of developing a mercury-related illnesses. Workers employed in the production of chlorine gas, batteries, fungicides, biocides, thermometers and dental fillings are particularly at risk.

This list is not exhaustive. Anyone exposed to mercury, including members of the public who come into contact with mercury after a spillage, may be eligible to make a compensation claim.

What are the health problems associated with mercury poisoning?

Exposure to mercury can lead to a number of short and long-term health problems including:

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Respiratory problems
  • Coughing blood
  • Inflammation of the mouth and gums
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle spasms
  • Kidney damage
  • Damage to the nervous system.

How severe the poisoning is usually will depend on the dose and the method of exposure (inhalation, ingestion or dermal contact). As a preliminary step, the injury lawyer will arrange an independent medical examination to assess whether mercury is present in the body and to establish the extent of the poisoning. The medical expert will also recommend any treatment that is needed such as drug therapy.

The medical report is used as a basis for the compensation claim.

Is the employer liable?

Any employer who uses mercury is required to follow the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). COSHH places a legal duty on employers to minimise the impact mercury and other toxic chemicals might have on a worker's health.

Specifically, an employer must:

  • Assess the health risks that come from mercury and use alternatives wherever possible
  • Monitor a worker's exposure to mercury
  • Keep exposure within strict workplace exposure limits defined as 0.02mg/m3 averaged over an 8 hour working day
  • Take measures to limit exposure for example by issuing personal protective equipment such as masks and skin protection
  • Store and dispose of mercury properly to prevent spillages
  • Train employees in safe use and handling of the compound.

An employer who fails in their duty to protect staff from mercury exposure may be liable for any illness that arises as a result.

No Win, No Fee agreements and mercury poisoning claims

No Win, No Fee compensation claims get underway after the Claimant signs up to a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) with their solicitor.

The CFA defines the terms between the solicitor and you.

The agreement explains the service the lawyer delivers as well as a percentage success fee. This will be the fee to be deducted from the damages once the case is successful.

You have no hidden charges when choosing a a Quittance personal injury lawyer. You are able to focus on your recovery, with the knowledge that that you will never be out of pocket and there is nothing whatsoever to pay if your claim is not successful.

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