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Paul Carvis

Panel Personal Injury Solicitor

Introduction to work-related illness compensation claims

A work-related illness (also known as an 'industrial disease' or 'occupational disease') describes an injury, illness or condition that is sustained as a result of unsafe working conditions or exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that in 2014/15, 1.2 million workers in Britain were affected work-related illnesses. The data published by the HSE also indicates that 13,500 new cases of work-related ill health are reported every year.

In addition, 800,000 former workers were also still affected by an illness that was caused by, or worsened by, their previous employment. 

Can you claim work-related illness compensation for non-industrial occupations?

The HSE have argued that their report 'substantially underestimates' illnesses in non-industrial workplaces.

As a general rule, it is possible to make a claim regardless of whether you became ill when working in a factory, an office or shop, provided that your illness resulted from an employer's negligence.

Work-related skin disease, for example, can affect cleaners, hairdressers, gardeners and kitchen staff, but many staff may not realise that their illness of health condition relates to their work and may not be aware that they can claim compensation.

Work-related illness claims, or occupational health claims, can be made in respect of a very wide range of illnesses. Claims that Quittance's network of solicitors have successfully pursued include:

What is the law on work-related illness?

A large body of legislation, recommended protocols and case law determine the how specific work-related illness claims are handled. For example, the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 entitles employees exposed to asbestos under certain conditions to lump-sum payments.

Who is responsible for your Industrial Illness or Industrial Disease?

Your employer has a legal obligation to provide you with a safe working environment. The employer's duty is defined by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), as:

"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."

Where your employer has breached this duty, and you have sustained injury or illness as a result, you may claim for compensation.

In some cases, it may not be necessary for an employer to have prior knowledge of the specific cause of your illness, if, for example, the employer has failed to carry out regular inspections of your workplace. In other circumstances, it may be necessary that your employer was informed at an earlier date, and that they failed to take action in a reasonable time frame.

Claiming compensation for illness caused by another member of staff

workplace accident claim may be made against a negligent employer in the event that one of their employees causes harm in the course of their employment, due to the the principle of vicarious liability.

Vicarious liability claims for workplace illness are likely to be less common than for work accidents. However, in circumstances where another member of staff has caused your illness, whether due to workplace bullying, negligence or recklessness, you may be able to make a claim against your employer.

By law, your employer must have insurance to cover the cost of your compensation, whereas an individual employee is unlikely to be able to afford to pay compensation themselves.

Can you make a claim for compensation?

If you have developed a work related illness in the last three years, or been diagnosed during that time, you are entitled to make a claim in the event that:

  • your employer failed in their duty to keep you safe, and
  • this failure caused your illness

What is the time limit for a work-related illness claim?

It may be possible to make a compensation claim after the three-year time limit has passed, where the injury or illness was diagnosed within the last three years. This discovery date, or 'date of knowledge', is usually the date a Claimant is informed of their diagnosis.

As an example, older potential Claimants may not notice the extent of hearing loss until a formal test and diagnosis. If it is likely that this hearing loss was caused by (or significantly accelerated by) working in a loud environment, a claim may be made.

It is not uncommon for claims to relate to employment dating back 30, 40 or even 50 years.

If a settlement is not reached within three years of the date of knowledge a compensation claim is usually statue-barred, meaning that an injured party is not able to make their claim.

In certain circumstances, specific legislation may allow for a longer time-limit for starting a claim, particularly for asbestos-related disease.

For more information, calculate the time limit of your work illness claim here.

Can you make a work-related illness claim against multiple employers?

You may have developed a work-related illness due to the conditions in one job or in the course of working for a number of employers over several years.

A claim against multiple employers may also be made in cases where an employee was exposed to hazardous substances multiple times over the course of multiple jobs, and it is not clear which exposure incident specifically caused the resulting illness. This is a common factor in asbestos-related claims.

Claiming against multiple employers is also common in cases where poor working conditions, or risk of exposure to hazardous materials, was endemic across an industry.

Your solicitor will advise on whether you should bring a claim against multiple employers and will conduct the necessary legal work to ensure all relevant former employers and their insurers are identified.

To make a compensation claim, the working conditions or exposure to dangerous materials needs to:

  • be  the cause of your injuries
  • be due an employer's actions or negligence
  • have taken place, or been brought to your attention, within the last three years

The personal injury solicitor must demonstrate that, on the balance of probabilities, your employer at the time was legally responsible for the accident, and that your illness resulted from the accident.

An employee can still be compensated for illness if responsibility is shared by the employer and the employee, such as in cases where the Claimant worked in unsafe conditions but could have done more to protect themselves from harm. Generally, these claims are resolved with a split liability agreement.

Can a personal injury claim be made on behalf of someone else?

A compensation claim can, in certain cases, be made on behalf of an adult who is understood by the Courts to be unable to conduct their own compensation claim. For legal purposes, these persons are referred to as 'protected parties'.

A person responsible for making a compensation claim on behalf of a protected party is, in legal terminology, called a 'litigation friend'. The litigation friend is responsible for communicating with the solicitors and making decisions in respect of the claim.

What if the company you worked for no longer exists?

Claims can often be made even where an employer has ceased trading or has declared bankruptcy. The Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 makes it a legal requirement that companies insure against employee injury or illness.

The Employers' Liability Tracing Office (ELTO) is not-for-profit company that hold a historic database of the insurers used by employers. Solicitors use the ELTO database to track down insurers responsible for companies that have been bought out, changed ownership, or otherwise ceased trading.

What work-related illnesses can you claim for?

Generally speaking, a claim can be made in relation to any illness developed during the course of your employment, if the illness was the result of a breach of your employer's duty of care to you.

Medical conditions prompting a work-related or occupational illness claim range from noise-induced hearing loss and RSI to mesothelioma and other cancers.

How compensation could help you

It is recognised by the Courts that a work-related illness can have serious consequences. Compensation is typically awarded for:

  1. pain, suffering and loss or reduction of capacity
  2. loss of earnings when taking time off work to recover and future loss of earnings if you are not able to return to work
  3. expenses including travel costs to hospital appointments
  4. treatment and ongoing care costs relating to your injuries

How Quittance's solicitors can help your claim

Quittance's network of expert solicitors will answer any questions you have and will run through your options before you decide to make a claim.

Work-related illness claim advice

Navigating Claimants through the claims process to achieve a successful settlement for work-related illness, Quittance's personal injury experts have acted for Claimants injured in a wide range of circumstances.

Compensation awards and settlements have been negotiated for illness including:

  • repetitive strain injuries (RSI)
  • asbestos-related disease
  • silicosis
  • noise-induced hearing loss
  • dermatitis
  • musculoskeletal injuries, including back and neck pain

Quittance's solicitors focus on the legal side you can prioritise your recovery.

They offer advice and support in plain English through the claims process. It is likely that your case will not need to go to Court.

Whether the Court makes an award for damages or an out-of-court settlement is negotiated, our fair No Win, No Fee approach means you keep more of your compensation.

How are work-related illness compensation claims calculated?

Work-related illness or 'industrial disease' covers a very wide spectrum of injuries and diseases. Compensation can vary from somewhere in the region of £3,000 for temporary conditions that fully recover within months, to over £100,000 for lung cancer and other diseases that significantly and permanently affect quality of life or lower life expectancy.

Minimum and maximum amounts for injuries and medical conditions are recommended in the Judicial College guidelines for personal injury awards (formerly the Judicial Studies Board guidelines).

For example, in cases where working conditions or exposure to hazardous materials has caused an employee to develop chronic asthma, the Judicial College recommend general damages of between £21,230 and £34,760.

Courts will use the Judicial College guidelines to determine compensation awards, and insurers will consider the guidelines when making an offer.

You may also be able to start a claim for existing injuries or medical conditions that have worsened as a result of your employment.

What else can you claim compensation for?

You can also claim special damages for travel expenses including those for hospital appointments, the cost of medical treatment and ongoing care. The cost of specialist hearing aids, for example, can be over £1,000 and could be included in a claim.

Lost earnings during your recovery can also be claimed for. Where the nature of the illness or injury is such that you are no longer able to work, you can also claim for future loss of earnings.

How long does a work-related illness compensation claim take?

Many personal injury claims are straightforward and compensation is agreed without long delays. Complex matters typically more time to resolve. There are some factors which will delay the matter, e.g. if the other party does not accept liability.

It can be hard to be sure how much time it will take to agree a settlement or award . Sometimes it can benefit the injured party to reject an initial offer to settle, as a longer negotiation may result in a better compensation settlement.

To get a more accurate prognosis of how long your claim is likely to take, talk to a work-related illness claims specialist on 0800 612 7456 or get a free Compensation Claim Report.

What is the chance of a compensation claim being successful?

The three tests involved in demonstrating liability in a personal injury claim are:

  1. was a duty of care owed
  2. was that duty breached
  3. was the injury caused by the breach

In general, these tests amount to "Did your employment cause your injuries "

If it has been acknowledged by the employer that they are responsible the likelihood of your claim succeeding is very high.

If the employer does not acknowledge liability fully, reaching a positive outcome can be more of a challenge.

Many years may have passed since the circumstances surrounding the cause of your illness took place. Witnesses and other evidence may be difficult to track down.

Quittance's experienced solicitors will work with you to collate as much evidence as possible to strengthen your case.

How does No Win, No Fee work with work related illness compensation claims?

No Win, No Fee agreements, or Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs), form a crucial part of the vast majority of claims for personal injury compensation.

The document explains the service executed by your solicitor, and importantly, a percentage-based "success fee" to be deducted from the total compensation after the case is successful.

You can focus on your rest and recovery, with the knowledge that that you will never be out of pocket and there will be absolutely nothing to pay if the case is not successful. There are absolutely no hidden fees using a Quittance personal injury lawyer.

Frequently asked questions

See our Frequently Asked Questions and Help & Advice section for comprehensive answers regarding the personal injury claims process, such as "Will I need a medical exam if claiming compensation?".

What to do next

If you have any further questions, our solicitors provide a no-obligation consultation to explore your options.

If you are looking for more information before deciding to proceed, see Quittance's injury claim calculator for a clearer idea of how much compensation you could receive.

You can start your claim online now, request a callback or call us on 0800 612 7456.