MTBE Exposure Compensation Claims

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by MTBE exposure, we can help.

Claiming injury compensation with a solicitor

You can make a hazardous substances compensation claim with the help and support of a specialist solicitor.

Your solicitor will ask you about what happened, and they will collect evidence to prove that the exposure caused your injuries or illness. Your solicitor will also work out how much money you can claim, based on your injuries, lost earnings and other expenses.

We can help you make a hazardous substances exposure claim on a No Win No Fee basis.

In this article


Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) is a flammable, colourless liquid that is added to petrol to help reduce the amount of carbon monoxide emissions. It is also used medically in the treatment of gallstones. Exposure to small doses of the chemical appears to pose no risk to human health.

At certain concentrations, however, MTBE is believed to have a poisonous effect on the body. Laboratory tests on rats have linked exposure to the chemical to cancerous tumours and leukaemia.

Anyone who has fallen ill after ingesting or inhaling MTBE may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

What are the problems with MTBE?

Despite lowering harmful fuel emissions, MTBE has some properties that can cause problems. It is much more soluble in water than other components of petrol, which means that it is much more likely to contaminate the water supply if it is spilled or if it leaks out of underground storage tanks. Once spilled, MTBE does not biodegrade easily, so it is very difficult to clean up.

Ingesting, inhaling or handling MTBE can cause various symptoms, including:

  • Skin irritation
  • Eye irritation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Breathing difficulties.

Laboratory studies conducted on animals suggest that exposure to MTBE at high doses over a long period may cause tumours of the kidneys, liver and some other organs. However, the levels of MTBE used in these studies were generally far higher than humans would normally experience in a typical work accident or spillage.

As an initial step, a simple medical examination is necessary to establish the extent of the MTBE exposure and the long-term effect this might have on the claimant's life. The medical report is used as basis for negotiating the settlement award.

Who is at risk of MTBE poisoning?

The majority of MTBE poisoning cases occur in workers who routinely handle the chemical and who have not been issued with the proper protective equipment. As such, MTBE poisoning claims usually fall within the category of hazardous substances compensation claims against an employer.

However, MTBE exposure can also occur in other ways. In the worst reported incident in the UK, MTBE was mass ingested by members of the public after a spillage at an air base in East Anglia contaminated local water supplies. Where a spillage is responsible for the MTBE exposure, the company responsible for transporting the fuel will be liable.

Do I have an injury claim?

It should be possible to make an injury claim if:

  • you were diagnosed in the last 3 years and;
  • someone else, such as your employer, was to blame.

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

To get impartial advice on whether you have a claim, speak to injury claims expert on 0800 376 1001.

A brief phone consultation will tell you exactly where you stand. There is no obligation to start a claim.

Can I still make a mtbe exposure claim after three years?

In general, a mtbe exposure claim can only be made outside of the three-year limit if you were diagnosed within the last three years with a health condition that was caused by historic exposure, or you were fundamentally unable to make a claim within the three-year window, due to incapacity.

How much compensation can I claim for an 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.

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 an injury? (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 an injury claim?

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

However, the money you would receive following an injury will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

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

Calculate my injury compensation

Calculating how much compensation you can claim for an 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 injury claim could be worth now:

Calculate compensation

How long does a MTBE exposure claim take?

The length of time needed to process a MTBE exposure claim can vary significantly.

For instance, if your employer or responsible party accepts liability, a claim could be completed in a month or two. However, if liability is denied it could take longer. Normally a hazardous substance injury claim should take 6 to 9 months. For more information, see: How long will my claim take?

How else can a solicitor help me?

Your solicitor will handle your injury claim from the initial FREE case evaluation, through to the financial settlement.

Your solicitor will work with other specialists to provide caring and sensitive support and 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.

Hazardous Substances Rules

Employers who handle hazardous substances are required by law to follow the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, known as COSHH.

COSHH places legal obligations on employers to control exposure to hazardous substances with a view to minimising the risk. In short, they must:

  • Identify hazardous substances used in the course of work
  • Assess the risk associated with handling or using the hazardous substance
  • Eliminate each significant risk or reduce it to insignificant levels
  • Implement safety precautions for the remaining risks, for example, by issuing personal protective clothing and equipment or improving ventilation systems for workers exposed to dangerous fumes
  • Train employees in the proper use of safety measures.

If an employer has failed in their duty to protect staff from MTBE exposure, they may be liable.

Where the MTBE exposure affects members of the public, the injury lawyer will gather evidence to show that:

  • Another entity (e.g. the company that was responsible for storing, transporting or disposing of the MTBE) was legally responsible for the accident
  • The claimant's injuries were sustained as a result of the exposure.

Once a link is established, the injury lawyer can begin to build a compelling case to achieve the maximum amount of compensation for the injuries that have been sustained.

Will I have to go to court?

Highly unlikely. Solicitors settle the vast majority of claims out of court.

Less than 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 decided by a judge or magistrate, not a jury.

Even if the claim does go to court, it is very unlikely you will have to attend.

Read more:

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

No win, no fee

No win, no fee means that your solicitor will not charge you anything if your injury claim is unsuccessful. 'No win, no fee' is also called a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or 'CFA'.

No win, no fee - our guarantee

Our no win, no fee guarantee means there is no financial risk in making an injury claim, even if you don't win your claim. Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

What do I pay if I win my injury 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 injury claim?

If your injury claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees whatsoever. Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.

Can I get Legal Aid?

Legal aid is no longer available when making a personal injury claim, but a Conditional Fee Agreement (No Win, No Fee) can reduce the financial risks of making a claim.

Why do most solicitors charge 25%?

25% success fees are charged by most law firms as this is the maximum fee that the Ministry of Justice allows them to charge. mtbe exposure claims can take a solicitor hundreds of hours work and they receive nothing if the case is lost. The success fee will be subject to your individual circumstances and the actual fee may vary. Call us for more information.

How we can help you

Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, and the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning injury claims.

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
  • 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday

Call us for FREE advice on 0800 376 1001, or arrange a call back from a friendly, legally-trained advisor:

Call me back
  • Tick icon FREE consultation
  • Tick icon Find out if you can claim
  • Tick icon No obligation to start a claim

Injury 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:

Claiming on behalf of another person.

Can I claim if I feel I was partly responsible for my accident?

Yes. You may still be able to claim compensation even if your actions may have contributed to the accident.

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:

Claiming compensation if you were partly responsible for an accident.

How long do I have to make an injury claim?

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

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

Can I claim for an injury 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.

There other circumstances that can also impact the limitation date. Call us now on 0800 376 1001 to find out if you are still able to claim injury compensation.

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

Calculate your claim limitation date

Will I have to visit a solicitor's office to start a claim?

No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. Personal injury claims are handled by email, post and phone.

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?

I need the money now - what are my options?

If you are unable to work and have bills to pay, you may be able to claim an interim compensation payment.

An interim payment is an advance on your compensation payment. Any amount you receive in interim payments would be deducted from your final compensation payment.

Read more:

How to I get an interim compensation payment?

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor