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.

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

In our guide to claiming solvent exposure compensation:

Introduction

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 an employee or member of the public is harmed by negligent use or storage of solvents, the affected individual may be entitled to make an industrial disease compensation claim.

Do I have a solvent exposure claim?

It should be possible to make a solvent exposure claim if:

  • you were diagnosed in the last three 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 612 7456.

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

Inadequate protection

Harmful exposure that may result in a claim frequently occurs as a result of inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other health and safety breaches.

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.

Long-term issues

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.

How much compensation can I claim for solvent exposure?

The amount of money you could claim for your solvent exposure 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 solvent exposure 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 solvent exposure? (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 solvent exposure 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 solvent exposure will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

Your solvent exposure 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.

Can I claim for physiotherapy and private care costs?

Private treatment can be expensive, but funding towards the cost of this treatment frequently comprises part of a compensation award. Your solicitor may even be able to arrange access to private medical care as soon as your claim is accepted.

Solvent exposure compensation

Calculating how much compensation you can claim for a solvent exposure 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 solvent exposure claim could be worth now:

Calculate compensation

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, however, 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?

Caring and sensitive support

Your solicitor will handle your solvent exposure 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 did your injury occur?

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

How does no win, no fee work?

No win, no fee takes the risk out of making a solvent exposure 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 a solvent exposure 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 solvent exposure 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 solvent exposure claim?

If your solvent exposure 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.

What is Legal Aid available for?

In 2000, the government abolished the right to legal aid in personal injury and industrial disease cases. Depending on an individual's circumstances, Legal Aid may be available for discrimination cases, criminal cases, family mediation and court or tribunal representation.

How can Quittance help?

Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, 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, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:

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Solvent exposure 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 do I have to make a solvent exposure claim?

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

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

Can I claim for a solvent exposure 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 612 7456 to find out if you are still able to claim solvent exposure compensation.

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

Calculate your claim limitation date

Will I have to go to court?

Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by the 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.

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

Author:
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor