Impairment of taste and smell claims

Introduction

Updated: October 8, 2018

Taste and smell are closely related. Impairment of either, or both, can have a detrimental effect on a person's experiences and quality of life. Symptoms can sometimes lead to weight loss and clinical depression.

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A smell or taste disorder may develop with age or relate to an illness such as a sinus infection or a nervous or neurological condition.

However, impairment can also occur through head trauma or exposure to certain chemicals. In these cases, compensation can be sought if third-party negligence was to blame.

Head injury

Do I have a claim for impairment of taste and smell?

If you have suffered from an impairment of taste and smell in the last three years (longer if children were involved) and someone else was to blame, then we can help you make a compensation claim.

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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.

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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.

Head injury

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.

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Establishing liability

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.

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Understanding No Win, No Fee claim agreements

No Win, No Fee agreements, or CFAs (Conditional Fee Agreements), are the foundation of a injury claim.

The agreement explains the service the lawyer will deliver in addition to the "success fee" to be deducted from your damages if they win the claim.

By selecting a Quittance personal injury lawyer, you are able to focus on your rest and recovery, knowing that there is absolutely nothing to pay at the outset and you will never be out of pocket.

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Calculate my impairment of taste and smell compensation

The amount of compensation you will receive depends on a number of factors. Our personal injury compensation calculator provides an accurate estimate of your likely compensation.

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Accidents at work - Claims against your employer

Every year, 600,000* employees are injured in accidents at work. If you have suffered an injury or illness at work, you may able to claim compensation.

Find out if you can claim from an impairment of taste and smell compensation from your employer: Read more about work accident claims

*Source: 2016/17 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report

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Meet the QLS team

Quittance Legal Services' nationwide panel of solicitors carry out the legal work for all types of compensation claim and have a wealth of experience in fast track, complex and catastrophic injury claims. Selected on the basis of their track record in winning cases, our solicitors have years of dedicated experience.

Click here to meet more of the QLS team.

Kevin Walker Serious Injury Panel Solicitor
Emma Bell Employers and Public Liability Panel Solicitor
Shahida Chaudery Complex Injury Claims Panel Solicitor
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.

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