Your employers owe you a duty of care to ensure that you are not exposed to harmful fumes, dust, chemicals and other substances. Failure to do so means they have not provided a safe working environment which could give rise to a claim in negligence against them.
The most common occupational respiratory problem is asthma, it can be caused if an employer does not provide adequate protection from dust, gas, fumes etc. Other respiratory conditions caused by workplace hazards include pneumoconiosis, bronchitis and emphysema, these are again caused by exposure to harmful substances such as chemicals, fumes or even flour. These types of injuries are common in occupations such as plastic manufacturers, metal workers, chemical workers, coal miners, painters and bakers.
Your employer is under a duty to mitigate the risks of exposure by providing protective equipment, appropriate shift rotation and regular breaks. Bringing a claim for compensation against your employer can seem like a daunting task, however, if you have been exposed to an unsafe working environment the consequences to your health can be very serious. It is, therefore, important to consider making a claim, not only because you are entitled to do so, but also because it will prompt your employer to comply with health and safety regulations and ensure no one else is at risk of illness or injury.
How We Can Help
At PA Duffy and Company our expert personal injury solicitors are vastly experienced in claims of this nature. Our aim is to help our clients to understand their claim and make the process as accessible as possible. While the claims process can vary, it will generally adopt the following format:
1. Free Initial Consultation – If you have suffered a respiratory injury as a result of workplace negligence you should make an appointment with one of our personal injury solicitors as soon as possible to ensure that Statute limitation do not affect your claim. Your solicitor will take your instructions and ask you to give a detailed statement of when you believe you were exposed to an unsafe working environment and when you were diagnosed with your illness or injury. You have three years to make a claim for compensation from the date you discover you have an illness that may be linked to your work.
2. Letter of Claim – Your solicitor will then send a letter of claim to your employer or former employers outlining the allegations of negligence and breach of statutory duty against them. The employers will then be obligated to pass this on to their insurance company.
3. Engineers Report – An engineer’s report may be required to ascertain whether the employer has been negligent or in breach of any of its statutory duties. This report will be important to the outcome of the case.
4. Medical Evidence – If you have attended the GP or hospital, we will obtain those notes and arrange for you to be examined by a specialist medical Consultant who will provide a report on the cause and extent of your injuries. This will later be forwarded to the third-party insurance company for their consideration.
5. Decision on Liability – The third-party insurance company will have three months from the date our initial letter of claim is sent to complete their investigations and provide a decision on liability. If liability is admitted, then medical evidence will be provided to the insurance company and both parties will enter into settlement negotiations.
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.
To help you to understand the claims process we have devised a hypothetical scenario where we demonstrate how a claim will unfold in practical terms:
Tracey is a 26-year-old who works in the product development department of a large plastic manufacturing company, she has just started the job. Tracey was asked by her supervisor to start lifting pieces of plastic from a machine and place them on the line. As she was doing this, she noticed the plastic was very warm and there was steam rising from it. Keen not to make a fuss, she keeps working but after about an hour begins to fell unwell. She is taken to hospital and treated for emphysema caused by inhaling dangerous chemicals.
Tracey approaches PA Duffy and Company to see if there is anything that can be done. She arranges a consultation with a personal injury solicitor who takes her instructions on the circumstances of the incident. Tracey states that she received no training or protective equipment. It was only her second day on the job. Tracey’s solicitor sends a letter of claim to her employer setting out the allegations of negligence including failure to provide adequate training, protective clothing and a safe working environment.
The insurance company accept that they are liable. Tracey’s solicitor concludes that there is no need for an engineer’s report in these circumstances and she will press on to gather the medical evidence in this case. Tracey’s attends an appointment with a Consultant Pulmonologist who reports that her injuries were indeed caused by exposure to chemicals in the workplace. The report states that she should have no long-term consequences but will experience shortness of breath for up to a year post incident.
This report is then forwarded on to the third-party insurance company along with supporting evidence in relation to Tracey’s loss of earnings, as she was off work for three weeks following the incident. An offer of £12,000 to include loss of earnings calculated at £1400. Her solicitor advised that while the loss of earnings figure is accepted, the compensation for the claimant’s injury was not sufficient. Tracey’s solicitor managed to negotiate £15,000 which represented a good settlement considering the relatively positive prognosis from the medical expert. Tracey instructed her solicitor to accept the offer and the case was concluded.