Solvent Exposure Compensation Claims
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a solvent exposure injury, 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
Solvents, also known as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), are used in a wide variety of industries, including engineering, construction, footwear, textiles, rubber, dry cleaning, chemical, woodworking and printing.
If not managed with appropriate procedures, training and protective equipment, some solvents can cause serious and long-term health problems.
If you, as an employee or member of the public, have been harmed by the negligent use or storage of solvents, you may be entitled to make an industrial disease compensation claim.
Solvent exposure in the workplace
Potentially harmful solvents include acetone, ethyl acetate, toluene, xylene and white spirit.
When working in an environment that may involve exposure to harmful solvents, there are three paths in which these chemicals can the body and cause injury. In most cases, solvents can be inhaled, ingested or swallowed, or absorbed into the skin.
Employers must take reasonable steps to protect employees with suitable PPE, but exposure alone may not be sufficient grounds for a claim. If the employer had taken all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of staff and exposure still occurs, pursuing a claim may be difficult. Success may depend on the facts of the case.
What are the symptoms of solvent exposure?
The symptoms experienced as a result of VOCs entering your bloodstream can vary, depending on the level of exposure and the length of time involved. In the short term, inhaling, ingesting or absorbing solvents can make an affected individual feel nauseous and dizzy, and they may experience a headache.
Because the symptoms are similar to being drunk, a affected employee is more likely to make an error in judgement that could cause further harm.
Solvents can also cause irritation of the eyes and skin, such as itching or rashes. In addition, the lungs can be affected by VOC exposure, potentially making breathing more difficult. In the longer-term, sleep problems and psychological issues can also become apparent.
If an individual is exposed to VOCs over a long period of time, they may experience symptoms such as problems with kidney and liver functions. Solvents can also cause damage to the brain and central nervous system, and affect fertility levels. Some solvents are also considered to be carcinogenic.
A solicitor will arrange for a detailed medical report to be carried out at the outset of a claim to ensure that the appropriate level of compensation is sought.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
If your work involves potential exposure to solvents, your employer has a legal obligation to prevent this exposure from reaching dangerous levels. Solvents are one of several chemicals that are governed by regulations known as Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). These regulations are designed to protect people who are working with dangerous chemicals, and prevent health problems from occurring as a result.
The Health and Safety Executive recommends that employers in industries that use solvents should follow an 'assess, control and review approach'.
Assessing involves determining the exact nature of work that involves using solvents, as well as who will be completing this work. The employer should also ascertain whether or not there may be others working in the vicinity who may be affected.
Employers should determine what level of solvents are in the chemicals that are to be used, as well as checking how volatile these levels are: do they evaporate on reaching room temperature, for example? How the work is to be completed is an important consideration. For example, spraying with solvent based chemicals is considered a lot more hazardous than painting.
The environment in which VOCs are used is an important component of the COSHH guidelines. Employers must review the size of the area in which people are working with these chemicals, and make checks for appropriate ventilation.
Employees should not be exposed to solvents at all where possible. If this is not possible, organisations have an obligation to control exposure as much as is practical. They should provide Personal Protective Equipment such as goggles, gloves, overalls and Respiratory Protective Equipment where needed.
Employers are also obliged to provide appropriate training, and to make regular checks on equipment and employees themselves. If these obligations are not met, and you have been exposed to solvents in a manner that has endangered your health, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
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 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 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
- 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.
Will I have to pay tax on my solvent exposure compensation?
If you receive financial compensation following a solvent exposure injury, specific legislation ensures that you do not have to pay tax on it. This is the case no matter whether the compensation is received as a lump sum or as staggered payments.
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:
How long does a solvent exposure claim take?
How long it can take to settle a solvent exposure claim can vary considerably.
For example, if your employer or responsible party accepts liability, a claim could be completed in a couple of months. If liability is denied, the process might take considerably longer. Usually, a hazardous substance injury claim takes between 6 and 9 months. 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.
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.
How does no win, no fee work?
No win, no fee takes the risk out of making an injury claim. If your claim is unsuccessful, you won't have to pay your solicitor any legal fees.
No win, no fee promise
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, 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 injury claim?
If your injury claim is not successful then you will not have to pay any fees. Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.
How do personal injury solicitors get paid?
If your solvent exposure claim is successful, the defendant, or their insurer, will pay the compensation and your solicitors fees.
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:
- Find out
if you can claim
- No obligation
to start a claim
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor
About the author
Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.