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Compensation for the loss of taste and smell, often due to head injuries or medical conditions, focuses on the profound personal impact such a loss can have on your life.
If you have lost your sense of taste or smell due to someone else's negligence, we can help you to claim compensation.
You can make a compensation claim with the help and support of a personal injury solicitor. Your solicitor will ask you about what happened, and they will collect evidence to prove what caused your injuries. 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 personal injury compensation claim on a No Win No Fee basis.
In this article
You are not alone
Taste and smell are closely related senses. Loss or impairment of either sense, or losing both taste and smell, can have a detrimental effect on your quality of life. These symptoms can sometimes lead to weight loss and clinical depression.
A loss of taste or smell can be caused by head trauma, or exposure to certain chemicals. If you have suffered an injury that affects your sense of taste or smell and a third-party is at fault, a compensation claim may be possible.
If you need information on symptoms and treatment, see: lost or changed sense of smell (nhs.uk).
Do I have a loss of taste and smell claim?
As a basic rule, you will be eligible to make an injury claim if you were injured:
- within the last 3 years, and;
- another person was to blame, and;
- that person owed you a duty of care.
Find out online if you can claim with our injury claim calculator. Alternatively, you can speak to a claims advisor on 0800 376 1001 and find out if you have a claim in minutes.
What happens if I share some of the blame?
Figuring out who is legally at fault for an accident can sometimes be complex and nuanced.
According to our recent 2023 Personal Injury Claimant Survey, 13.99% of respondents thought that their actions could have contributed, either in part or wholly, to their injuries.
You may still be able to claim compensation even if your actions may have contributed to the accident. Claims where there is fault on both sides (contributory negligence) are often resolved with a split liability agreement.
How long do I have to start a loss of taste and smell claim?
In most cases, you have 3 years from the date of your accident or injury.
You may still be able to claim compensation if you were injured by another's negligence and you only discovered it later. Generally, the clock starts ticking from the date you were diagnosed or became aware of your injury.
If you were injured when you were under 18, a parent, guardian or adult 'litigation friend' can make a claim on your behalf. Once you turn 18, you have until your 21st birthday to start an injury claim.
How much compensation can I claim for a loss of taste and smell?
The amount of money you could claim for your loss of smell or taste 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.
Loss of taste and smell
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Updated December 2023
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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.
Special damages are awarded to compensate you for any costs or losses you've incurred or might incur as a result of your accident. These costs might include loss of earnings, including lost overtime, holiday pay, benefits and pension contributions, or any other out of pocket expenses.
Special damages may also be awarded for medical treatments or procedures that you might need to treat your loss of taste and smell, including medication for underlying cause, zinc supplements, dietary changes and cognitive therapy.
Average impairment of taste and smell general damages compensation
The following impairment of taste and smell 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).
|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|
|Injury to senses||Severe||Loss of smell and some loss of taste||£29,910 to £35,610|
|Injury to senses||Very Severe||Total loss of smell and taste||Around £35,610|
Understanding loss of taste and smell
Taste and smell are known as chemical senses. This is because they enable detection of any substance - whether air, water, food or drink - from its unique chemical signature.
Smelling and tasting begins when substances release molecules which then stimulate special nerve cells in the nose, mouth and throat. Messages are then sent to the brain, and specific smells or tastes identified. If any of these nerve cells are damaged, or any of the corresponding receptors in the brain become damaged, then impairment can occur.
Impairment is usually the result of damage to the olfactory systems (used to detect smell), and this is most common in compensation claims. However as taste is over 75 percent based on smell, both are often affected.
- Loss of smell is medically known as anosmia
- Loss of taste functions of the tongue (which only includes the ability to indicate texture and distinguish between sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and umami) is called ageusia
Professional diagnosis of a smell or taste condition forms the basis of claim. A solicitor will arrange a medical examination as part of the claim process. In addition, the cause of the loss of senses must be established.
What are the common causes of impairment?
For a claim to be made, the full or partial loss of taste or smell (or both) must be attributable to the negligence of another person. For this type of sensory impairment, there are two main causes:
- Head injury or trauma
- Exposure to certain chemicals or toxic fumes
Other causes can include injury during ear, nose and throat surgery, or certain medications.
According to Fifth Sense, a charity for people affected by taste and smell disorders, head injury is thought to be one of the most common causes of smell loss. The extent of loss is determined not only by the severity of the injury, but also by the part of the head damaged.
Loss of smell can be caused by damage to the frontal lobes - where smell is processed. Alternatively, it can occur due to damage of the nerves which travel from the olfactory receptor cells to the brain. It can also result from damage to the nose itself.
Such injury could occur in a range of circumstances but, most commonly in claims, are often the result of an accident in the workplace or a road traffic accident.
Exposure to chemicals or toxic fumes
Although less common, exposure to certain chemicals, such as insecticides, solvents and heavy metals (such as cadmium, chromium, nickel, and manganese), can have an adverse effect on the olfactory system. Not only can they alter a person's ability to smell, but they can also cause irreversible damage.
In most instances, toxic agents adversely influence sense of smell by directly damaging the olfactory neuroepithelium (a neural tissue) - located in the upper recesses of the nasal chamber.
Exposure to such toxins can occur as a result of general air pollution or in the workplace. It is where it occurs in the latter, a claim can be made.
Who is liable depends on the individual circumstances in which the injury occurred.
If head trauma which caused loss of smell and taste was the result of a road traffic accident, the other driver could be liable if they were proven to be at fault. Under common law all drivers have a 'duty of care' towards other road users. If they caused harm, there actions would be deemed negligent.
Alternatively, if impairment occurred due to involvement in an accident at work which resulted in a head injury, or through exposure to toxic fumes at work, the employer could be held liable.
A range of legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002, require employers to identify risks and provide a safe work environment. If they do not, their actions or inaction would be deemed negligent and, if identified as the cause of the impairment, would make them responsible.
For medical negligence, such as injury during surgery, the medical staff or hospital could be liable.
How did your injury happen?
The claims process for a loss of taste and smell will depend on where and how the accident happened. Click the icons below for more information:
How we can help you with your injury claim
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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.