Noise induced hearing loss, occupational deafness and other hearing problems can be caused by exposure to excessive noise in the workplace. Common hearing problems that workers can develop include tinnitus, acoustic shock syndrome and occupational deafness. Such illnesses have been known to develop a long time after exposure and significantly disrupt the lives of victims.
Employers owe a duty of care to their employees to ensure that they are not exposed to an unsafe level of noise. In occupations where exposure to noise is unavoidable employers must put in place appropriate safeguards such as ensuring that employees have personal protective equipment.
Occupations which pose a greater risk of noise induced hearing loss include steel works, construction and textile works. The duty of care owed to employees working in these environments will obviously be greater than that owed to an office worker.
Common hearing problems that workers can develop include tinnitus, acoustic shock syndrome and occupational deafness. Such illnesses have been known to develop a long time after exposure and significantly disrupt the lives of victims.
How We Can Help
If you have been diagnosed with a hearing problem which is linked to your occupation or former occupation you should seek legal advice promptly as time limitations will apply to claims of this nature. The claims process can vary but generally adopts the following format;
1. Free Initial Consultation – When you arrange to meet one of personal injury solicitors, they will take your full instructions which will include your allegations of exposure to excessive noise and when you were diagnosed with a hearing problem or deafness. It is advisable for clients to keep a written record of this as claims can be made many years after exposure.
2. Letter of Claim – When your solicitor has identified the negligent employer, they will send a letter outlining detailed allegations of negligence and breach of statutory duty. The employer is then obligated to pass these details on to their insurance company.
3. Engineers Report – An engineer’s report may be required to provide an expert opinion on the level of noise that the Claimant was exposed to and whether this is appropriate.
4. Medical Evidence – If you have been to your GP or the Hospital in respect of this injury your solicitor will obtain these notes and arrange for you to be examined by a specialist medical Consultant in order to provide a report on your injuries. The purpose of the report is to examine whether the Claimant’s injuries were caused by workplace negligence.
5. Decision on Liability – The employers insurance company have three months from the date our letter of claim is sent to complete their investigations and provide a decision on liability. If liability is admitted, then your solicitor will forward medical evidence to the insurance company and settlement negotiations will begin.
6. Court Proceedings – If liability is denied your solicitor will consult with you and discuss issuing Court proceedings to try and recover damages. When Court proceedings are issued your solicitor will instruct a specialist barrister to help prepare your case for Hearing. Court proceedings can also be issued in a case where liability has been admitted if we feel the compensation being offered by the insurance company is not sufficient. Our expert solicitors will advise clients on their options, but the final decision will always be made by the client and we will ensure that their wishes are carried out.
It can be difficult to understand the complexities of how claims for compensation work in practice. To help make the claims process more accessible we have devised a hypothetical scenario which shows how an occupational hearing loss claim will be handled:
Brendan is a 55 year old engineer. He has recently been diagnosed with severe tinnitus and his doctor believes this may be linked to his occupation. Brendan approaches PA Duffy and Company and arranges to meet one of their expert personal injury solicitors. Brendan explains that he has worked in an extremely noisy environment for the past 30 years. He did state that in the past 7 or 8 years workers were provided with protective ear muffs but no personal protective equipment was provided prior to this.
Brendan’s solicitor sends a letter of claim to his employer setting out detailed allegations of negligence and breach of statutory duty. An engineer is then instructed to examine and report on working conditions in the factory which Brendan worked in. His report concludes that while there is currently a safe working environment since personal protective equipment was introduced, the failure to provide any safeguards to workers prior to this represents negligence. This report was then sent to the insurance company for their consideration.
In the meantime, Brendan’s solicitor had arranged for him to be examined by a Consultant ENT Surgeon. The report for this concluded that Brendan’s hearing problems were in fact caused by excessive noise exposure, most likely from his 30 years employment in the engineering industry. The report further noted that Brendan’s condition was likely to worsen and could eventually deteriorate into partial deafness. This report was then sent to the insurance company.
The insurance company, having accepted liability, entered into settlement negotiations with Brendan’s solicitor. An offer of £30,000 was made but Brendan’s solicitor advised him that this was not sufficient given the future deterioration of health as reported by the ENT surgeon. Brendan agreed and they issued High Court Proceedings to recover the damages. Brendan’s solicitor instructed a specialist personal injury barrister in the case and, having gathered additional medical evidence, a Consultation was arranged with the third party’s solicitors to discuss settling the case prior to Court Hearing.
It was agreed that Brendan would receive £48,000 in compensation which would take in to account his injuries and the potential for further hearing loss, as well as the psychological damage that the injury has caused him. Brendan was delighted with this and agreed to settle the claim prior to Court Hearing.