If an air conditioning illness has set you back, we'll help you move forward

Illnesses related to air conditioning, such as respiratory issues or legionnaires’ disease, often result from poor maintenance of Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. If you've fallen ill and it can be linked to an air conditioning system at your workplace or a public establishment, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

If your illness were caused by your employer or a co-worker, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

You can make a compensation claim with the help and support of a personal injury solicitor.

In this article

    You are not alone

    Many people appreciate the benefits of air-conditioning in the workplace, in public buildings and in shops and stores. It helps keep temperatures comfortable, and when properly maintained and used, air-conditioning systems remain entirely safe in the vast majority of cases.

    Unfortunately, where air-conditioning units are neglected they can lead to health hazards being carried in the air that they so effectively circulate.

    If a system is not properly cleaned, dust, dirt and other allergenic particles can be distributed. These may cause or exacerbate asthma, allergies and sinusitis.

    The hazards may be more severe if bacteria, viruses or moulds get into the system, potentially spreading a wide variety of illnesses. The best known of these illnesses is Legionnaire's disease.

    If you decide to make an air conditioning illness claim, your work illness solicitor will take you through every step of the claims process. Your solicitor will be with you until you win your claim and get the compensation you deserve.

    For information on Legionnaires' disease symptoms and treatment, visit: Legionnaires' disease (nhs.uk).

    Air conditioning units

    Do I have an air conditioning illness claim?

    As a basic rule, you will be eligible to make an injury claim if you were injured:

    • in the last 3 years,
    • by someone elses actions or negligence, and
    • they 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.

    How long do I have to claim air conditioning illness compensation?

    In most cases, you have 3 years from the date of your accident or injury.

    If you were not immediately aware that you were harmed by someone else's negligence, the 3-year time limit runs from the date you were diagnosed and became aware of what caused your injury or illness.

    What is Legionnaire's disease?

    Caused by specific water-borne bacteria called Legionella pneumophila (Legionella p.), Legionnaire's disease is a serious lung infection.

    The first identified case was in a group of veterans, "the American Legion", in 1976, after whom the disease is named.

    Although outbreaks are uncommon, the disease can be fatal, especially for people at risk of contracting a lung infection (pneumonia) - the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions such as a weakened immune system.

    The worst outbreak in recent years was in Edinburgh in summer 2012 when 92 cases were recorded, four of which were fatal.

    How is it contracted?

    Legionnaire's disease or Legionellosis is most commonly contracted when an individual inhales fine mist from a source of water contaminated with Legionella p. bacteria. It can also be contracted from drinking infected water but is not contagious, so does not pass from patient to patient.

    Quite common and harmless in small numbers Legionnella p. multiply where there is organic matter such as algae, rust, scale or sludge to provide nutrients. They will not reproduce at temperatures below 20ºC (68ºF) or above 60ºC (140ºF), so are unlikely to pose a risk in cool outdoor water such as rivers, lakes or reservoirs.

    Poorly maintained water-cooled air conditioning systems, humidifiers, whirlpool spas and cooling towers may provide the optimum environment in which Legionella p. can thrive.

    What are the symptoms and how is it diagnosed?

    Often described as flu-like, initial symptoms include chills, fever, a cough, tiredness and fatigue, headache and muscle ache and decreased appetite. There may be diarrhoea, vomiting and signs of mental confusion.

    The onset typically occurs with 2-10 days of exposure to Legionnella p. bacteria

    Diagnosis may be difficult as patients' chest scans and X-rays may often present as pneumonia. For a firm diagnosis additional tests (blood and urine) are required.

    A milder form, Pontiac fever, has similar symptoms of muscle ache and fatigue, but the onset is earlier, being within 2 hours and up to 2 days of exposure. Patients usually recover within 2-5 days without medical treatment.

    As it is classed as a 'notifiable disease' all cases of Legionnaires' disease must be reported to the local authority for investigation. This is so the source may be identified and steps taken to ensure others are not exposed.

    Who can contract Legionnaire's Disease and who is at risk?

    Anyone can contract Legionnaire's disease. However, the illness typically affects individuals with a compromised immune system or chronic lung diseases, smokers, or those who are middle-aged or older.

    As large buildings and those with complex water systems are likely to be most at risk, anyone working or visiting such buildings may also be at risk.

    Can Legionnella contamination be prevented?

    Contamination can be prevented by proper maintenance of water based systems. Ensuring the system is inspected and cleaned regularly to prevent build-up of organic matter, and the temperature is kept below 20ºC (68ºF) will inhibit bacterial growth.

    Systems that use air-cooled refrigerants are not susceptible to Legionnella contamination.

    Is it possible to claim for compensation for Legionnaire's disease?

    As Legionnaire's disease is usually contracted through the neglect of water-based systems it may be possible to bring a claim against those responsible for the systems' upkeep.

    Quittance's team of solicitors have helped many claimants who have contracted the illness to make personal injury claims where negligence has been shown to be the cause.

    How much compensation can I claim for an air conditioning illness?

    The amount of money you could claim for your injury 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.

    Air conditioning illness compensation calculator

    Get an accurate compensation estimate (including for multiple injuries), confirm your legal position, and check if you have a No Win, No Fee claim.

    Updated December 2023 Compensation Calculator v3.04

    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.

    How is compensation calculated if I have multiple injuries?

    Special damages

    Special damages is compensation awarded to cover any financial losses and expenses you incur as a result of your air conditioning illness or negligent medical treatment. These damages aim to put you back in the financial position you would have been in, had your injury not occurred.

    Special damages will also cover your medical treatment expenses, that might include antihistamines, decongestants and humidifier.

    Read more:

    A complete list of recoverable losses in a personal injury claim

    What happened?

    Claiming compensation depends on the cause of your air conditioning illness. Click the icons below for read more:

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    No win, no fee air conditioning illness compensation claims

    With no win, no fee, you can claim air conditioning illness compensation without financial risk. If your claim isn't successful, you pay nothing. If you win, you only pay a pre-agreed percentage of your compensation.

    Find out more about how no win, no fee claims work

    How we can help you with your workplace illness claim

    Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, and the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning workplace illness claims.

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    If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee workplace illness claim, we are open:

    Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 9:30am-5pm

    Call us for FREE advice on 0800 376 1001, or arrange a call back from a friendly, legally-trained advisor:

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