When people to think about industrial injuries, most will think of people who’ve had limbs dragged into machinery, or been injured when slipping and falling over debris on a factory floor. Although these types of accidents do happen, there are other forms of industrial injury or illness which develop over a longer time and are much more difficult to spot. One example of this type of injury is industrial deafness, which is caused by working in a noisy environment without the correct ear protection.
As anyone who suffers from significant hearing loss will tell you, it’s one of the most isolating and depressing illnesses there is. If you think your hearing has been damaged by the conditions in which you work (or used to work in), then you have every right to think about making a claim for compensation against your employer.
When you go to work, your employer has a legal duty to make sure you’re kept as safe as possible – and this includes making sure your working environment doesn’t cause harm to your long-term good health. If you work in a noisy atmosphere as part of your job, then this means you should:
If you’re suffering from industrial deafness, and you think it may have been caused by an employer’s negligence, then you can get in touch with a legal advisor on 0800 234 6438 for free advice about making industrial deafness claims.
The human ear is a complex and delicate mechanism. Exposure to even a single sound, if it’s loud enough, can cause permanent damage to the ear drum, as can exposure to less dramatic loud noises (85 dB or more) if it’s experienced over a prolonged period of time.
This is the reality which is recognised by the law under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. This law sets out the action which an employer must take when the noise in the workplace reaches certain decibels. For example:
There’s also a strict rule which states that the average noise level should never go above 87 dB or peak at 140 dB.
One of the most common injuries caused by prolonged exposure to a noisy work environment is tinnitus. The most common symptoms of tinnitus are constant buzzing, ringing or humming noises in the ears. Unfortunately, there’s no cure, but treatments such as tinnitus retraining therapy can help reduce the effects of the symptoms.
Anyone who suffers from tinnitus due to a noisy work environment may be able to get compensation if their employer didn’t provide safety equipment or warn of the dangers of persistent, loud noises.
Another common hearing problem caused in the workplace is acoustic shock. This is a hearing issue caused by high frequency, high intensity sounds and is typically linked to the use of telephone headsets in call centres. It has also recently been a recognised injury suffered by professional musicians playing in an orchestra.
The amount of compensation you might be able to claim for industrial or workplace deafness depends on many factors, particularly the extent of your hearing loss and its impact on you. Your solicitor will take the full impact of your loss of hearing into consideration, as well as your prognosis for the future.
There are helpful guidelines which solicitors and the courts refer to when assessing an appropriate damages award for pain and suffering. These guidelines suggest that in the case of severe tinnitus, for example, you could receive up to £40,000.
You can also claim compensation for any financial losses that related directly to your industrial deafness, such as:
For a guideline figure of the amount of compensation you might be able to receive, try our online compensation calculator.
You can make a claim for workplace deafness on a no win no fee basis, which means if you don’t win, you don’t have to pay.
When you speak to an advisor, they’ll be able to let you know whether they think your industrial deafness claim will be successful. But if you don’t end up getting any compensation, the no win no fee promise means that you won’t have to pay your solicitor any money.
With no win no fee, there aren’t any upfront charges or hidden costs either. If you do win your case, your personal injury solicitor will charge you a ‘success fee’ as a percentage of the compensation you receive, but this will only take up a maximum of 25% – so you’ll still get to keep most of it.
The short answer is that yas, you should be able to, as it can sometimes take many years for industrial deafness to appear. If you’re able to give your solicitors as much information as you can about your old employer, then they should be able to trace its insurers. Once they’ve been identified, your claim will be made against the insurer and if you’re successful then the insurer will pay you the compensation amount.
If you think your employer failed to take steps to protect you from hearing loss in circumstances where they should have been able to foresee the damage your work environment could cause, and this failure led to hearing damage, then you may be able to make a claim. Speak to a legal advisor for free on 0800 234 6438 – they’ll listen to the details of your case and can let you know whether they think you’ll be able to claim.
To get you the compensation you deserve, your solicitors will need to prove that your employer was negligent. This usually requires two things:
Having your hearing damaged can have a huge impact on your life – including your social life and your ability to work. That’s a huge price to pay for someone else’s negligence, and it’s only fair that you should be compensated.
To stand the best possible chance of making a successful claim, you should gather as much evidence as you can. As the years go by, we know it’s common for paperwork to get lost, but don’t worry – your solicitors will take as much information as you’re able to provide and take it from there.
Your solicitor will get all the relevant medical records from your GP, but it can be helpful for you to gather any other evidence which you could rely on. This includes results of any private hearing tests, witnesses who can give statements about the differences in your hearing, and details of the impact on your working life.
It’s best to contact a solicitor quickly because there are strict time limits making personal injury claims. The usual rule is that your claim should start within three years of the incident – otherwise you could be ‘time-barred’ and unable to make a claim. But what if many years have passed before you knew you might be able to make a claim?
The law makes allowances in these situations, so that this three-year ‘limitation’ period does not start to run until the date of ‘knowledge’, ie. the date on which you first became aware that your hearing loss was caused by your workplace environment. Don’t worry if you’re unsure about the relevant ‘date of knowledge’ because your solicitor will be able to talk you through it – just don’t assume you’re too late to make a claim.
To find out whether you could make a claim, you can get in touch with a legally trained advisor on 0800 234 6438, or enter your details using the claim form below.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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