Introduction to industrial disease claims
The term 'industrial disease' is used to describe a condition or illness which has developed after exposure to a dangerous substance in the workplace or as a result of unsafe working conditions.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate 2 million people each year are affected by industrial disease and workplace illness. An estimated 13,000 people die every year from lung disease and cancer caused by exposure to harmful substances alone.
Many employees with an existing illness, injury or medical condition also experience a worsening of symptoms due to actions or failures on the part of their employer.
Who can make a claim?
Every employee is owed a duty of care by their employer. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) define this as:
"Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which means that they should take all steps which are reasonably possible to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing."
If your employer has not done everything they reasonably could to protect you during your employment, and you have developed an illness or injury as a result, you may be able to make a claim.
You are entitled to claim compensation for industrial disease if the accident or exposure occurred in the last three years. You may also claim if you only became aware of the illness within the last three years, following a diagnosis. This is known as the 'date of knowledge'.
To make a successful claim, your lawyer must prove that you developed the illness or injury as a result of a breach of your employer's duty of care. It can be difficult to prove this 'causation' in some cases, such as when claiming for hearing loss many years after having worked in a loud environment.
You may still be able to claim for your injuries if responsibility for the accident or injuries is shared by both sides. An agreement called a split liability agreement is often used to settle such cases.
Can a Industrial disease claim be made on behalf of someone else?
It may be possible to start a claim on behalf of an adult who is accepted by the Courts to be unable to conduct their own claim. Claimants in this category are known as 'protected parties'.
The friend or relative who is making a personal injury claim for the Claimant is legally described as a 'litigation friend'. The litigation friend will be required to make choices as to how to proceed.
What if the company you worked for no longer exists?
Companies can cease trading through closure, insolvency or being bought and absorbed by larger organisations. Your employment history can be requested by your solicitor from HMRC. This history will include details of the firms you worked for and will enable the solicitor to trace the party or parties responsible for your illness. Bankrupt companies can also be pursued for compensation.
The Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 makes it compulsory for employers to insure against injury, disease or death of their employees.
If your solicitor cannot immediately trace an employer's insurers, they can approach the Employers' Liability Tracing Office (ELTO). The ELTO is an independent, not-for-profit company which maintains a historic database of employers and their insurance companies.
It is rare that industrial disease claims go to Court. If Court action is required against an employer that has ceased trading, it may be necessary to restore the employer to the Register of Companies held at Companies House, the government organisation that manages businesses. This process will be conducted by your solicitor as part of the legal action.
Which industrial diseases can you claim for?
As a general rule, any disease or injury can be claimed for if it can be proven that condition resulted from an employer's breach of their duty. Quittance's specialist solicitors have assisted many people claim for industrial disease, including:
Cancers caused by hazardous material exposure
Asbestos exposure, which accounts for over half of the cases recorded by the Health and Safety Executive. Other causes include exposure to silica, diesel exhaust fumes and mineral oils.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)
An estimated 18,000 people currently experience hearing loss either caused by, or made worse by, working conditions. It can be caused by working in environments where the noise levels are over 80dBA, such as heavy industry, car factories and shipyards.
Many only discover the loss of hearing in later life, making it difficult to prove an employer was responsible. Quittance's solicitors work with hearing-loss Claimants to build the strongest case possible.
Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
RSI is a broad category, describing the cause for a range of medical conditions. These include tenosynovitis, carpal tunnel, and tendinitis. According to research by RSI Awareness, 5.4 million sick days occurred in a single year as a direct result of RSI. 1 in 50 of the UK's working population report suffering from an RSI condition.
Hand arm vibration syndrome (vibration white finger)
Hand arm vibration syndrome claims can only be made for conditions caused by exposure at work after 1st January 1976. Claims can be made for conditions arising from the use of pneumatic tools after this date, including seasonal conditions affecting sufferers of hand arm vibration syndrome in colder weather.
It is now possible to claim compensation for recognised psychiatric injury or illness where the harm has resulted from actions or negligence on the part of an employer. Quittance's solicitors recognise the sensitivities surrounding such circumstances and offer confidential, no-obligation guidance to those considering a claim.
How could a compensation claim help?
Financial compensation is rarely an adequate substitute to compensate for the consequences of industrial disease. Nevertheless, personal injury law is based on the principle that compensation should aim to return a person to the position they would have been in if the accident or illness had never occurred.
The past will not change as a consequence of a compensation award, but it should have a positive impact on your present circumstances and future care.
Quittance's panel of specialist solicitors have a track record of securing compensation awards for:
- medical treatment and care costs
- anticipated future treatment and care
- other expenses including travel costs and potentially property damage
- loss or reduction of mental or physical capacity
- general pain and suffering
- lost earnings during recovery
- loss of earnings if unable to return to work
What can our solicitors do to help?
We understand that many potential Claimants have questions before choosing to go ahead. Quittance's network of specialist solicitors will answer these, addressing any additional points you wish to raise.
Should you wish to get an injury claim underway you would be working with solicitors with a broad range of experience. They have helped clients claim for industrial illness and injuries including:
- asbestosis and mesothelioma
- repetitive strain injuries
- noise-induced hearing loss
- dermatitis and skin cancer
- asthma, pneumoconiosis and other lung diseases
There is usually no need to go to Court for most claims. Most employers' insurance companies prefer to avoid costly and protracted legal action.
How is a compensation claim is calculated?
The wide variety of illness and injury described 'industrial diseases' can result in a range of compensation awards, including expenses and care requirements, ranging from claims for some hearing loss being compensated at around £3,000, to cancers and neurological conditions resulting in hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation.
Minimum and maximum amounts for each injury or condition are recommended in the Judicial College guidelines (formerly the Judicial Studies Board guidelines).
Insurers and solicitors use the Judicial College guidelines when proposing a settlement, and the Courts will apply the guidelines when calculating compensation awards.
In some circumstances, a employer's breach of duty can result in an pre-existing condition or injury getting worse. One example would be failing to properly ventilate an environment where an asthma-sufferer is working, resulting in a deterioration of their condition. A claim may be possible under such circumstances.
You can also make a claim for special damages. This can including travel expenses (e.g. for hospital appointments), the cost of medical treatment, and costs associated with ongoing care.
How long does it take to receive compensation?
Many personal injury claims are relatively straightforward and financial compensation is agreed in a short timeframe. More complicated or contentious matters are likely to take longer to resolve.
It is difficult to predict exactly how much time will be needed to work out a settlement. Your solicitor may advise that you delay accepting an offer until more is known about your condition, as this can result in a larger settlement.
Industrial disease claim time limits - Is it too late to claim?
In general, anyone who has sustained an injury in an accident that was not their fault, that happened in the last 3 years will be able to make a claim. It may be possible to claim for compensation after the three years, if an injury or illness was 'discovered' in those three years.
The discovery or 'date of knowledge' can refer to anything that the Claimant might reasonably have been expected to discover either by themselves or with the advice of a (often medical) professional. This is frequently the date a Claimant is informed of their diagnosis.
If a settlement is not agreed within the three-year timeframe, a claim is generally statue-barred. This means that a Claimants would be legally restricted from making their personal injury claim. By starting a claim sooner, the Claimant and their solicitor will be able to reach a more reasonable claim settlement by negotiating with the other side. Alternatively, if settlement is not reached, legal proceedings can commence.
In a small number of cases, it may be possible to make a claim for certain conditions, where specific legislation applies. If you are uncertain whether this may apply to your potential claim, call Quittance on 0800 612 7456 to discuss your case with a solicitor.
What is the likelihood of your claim being successful?
To win a compensation claim, it must be shown that your employer or former employer is liable for the illness or injury you have sustained.
Your claim is very likely to succeed if liability has been admitted. In matters where the Defendant has not acknowledged liability, or they allege that blame for your illness rests partly on you, success is not guaranteed.
Your solicitor will help gather evidence with a view to putting together the most robust claim. They may advise you to:
- report the circumstances to your employer, if applicable
- gather statements, names and addresses from witnesses
- complete or continue any course of medical treatment, including physiotherapy
- retain receipts for travel expenses and any other costs resulting from the disease or injury, such as modifications to your home or vehicle
Understanding No Win, No Fee compensation agreements
No Win, No Fee industrial disease compensation claims get underway with the Claimant agreeing, with their chosen injury lawyer, a "CFA", or Conditional Fee Agreement,.
Your Conditional Fee Agreement sets out the contract or "terms and conditions" between the injury lawyer and you.
It details the service executed by your solicitor, and crucially, a percentage-based "success fee". This will be the fee that will be taken from your compensation after the claim is won.
You will be able to focus on your recovery, knowing that you will never be out of pocket and there is absolutely nothing to pay up front. You have no hidden charges when choosing a a Quittance solicitor.
Free Industrial Disease Compensation Claim Report
A Compensation Claim Report (CCR) provides in-depth information about your claim without any lengthy phone calls.
Your CCR will look at:
- how much compensation you could be awarded
- how long it should take to reach a settlement
- the probability of success
Your CCR gives a detailed calculation and report on the main factors likely to affect your claim. Get a Compensation Claim report today.
More industrial disease claims advice
We are aware that you will have a number of questions when evaluating if you should go ahead with a compensation claim.
For answers to your questions about how injury claims work, for instance "Can compensation still be claimed if the accident made an existing medical condition worse ", see Claimant's Frequently Asked Questions.
The next steps
If you are looking for more information before choosing to go ahead, you can get an free, in-depth view with a Compensation Claim Report.