The term “industrial disease compensation” is basically a type of personal injury claim which is specific to medical conditions developed in the workplace. Very often these medical conditions can take years or even decades to be diagnosed. The best way to describe an industrial disease is an injury/illness in the workplace which was NOT the result of a one-off accident/event. In other words, it was more likely caused by exposure to a particular substance, or even working under undue stress, over a prolonged period of time.
Industrial disease statistics
A report by the Health and Safety Executive has cast a very interesting light on the area of industrial disease compensation. If we look at lung disease in isolation, the report claims that 12,000 lung disease deaths each year can be directly attributed to exposure in the workplace. The breakdown of the 12,000 lung disease deaths is as follows:-
- 33% chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- 23% non-asbestos-related lung cancer
- 20% asbestos-related lung cancer
- 20% mesothelioma
- 4% other lung diseases
It is worth remembering that while lung disease is a serious issue in the workplace, and one of the most common industrial disease compensation claims, there are many others to take into consideration. We also know that 1.4 million workers in the 2018/19 financial year were suffering new or long-standing illness as a consequence of their working environment. The breakdown for this figure is as follows:-
- 44% stress, depression or anxiety
- 37% musculoskeletal disorders
- 19% other types of illness
When you take a look at the bigger picture it is not difficult to see why the number of industrial disease compensation claims continues to rise. Issues such as lung disease may take literally decades to evolve – although using modern medical practices it is often relatively easy to trace these illnesses back to working practices in years gone by.
What are the most common industrial disease compensation claims?
Before we look at the most common industrial disease compensation claims, we can only estimate the number of perfectly valid claims which have fallen by the wayside. Some of the more common reasons for not pursuing compensation include:-
- Misunderstanding of the regulations
- Lack of information/guidance
- Misunderstanding of the claims timeframe
- Inability to link a medical condition with previous workplace exposure
- Previous employer is no longer trading
- Misplaced loyalty to previous employer
In years gone by we have seen some extensive advertising campaigns by the UK government to alert potential victims about the issue of compensation. There is no doubt many people will have benefited as a consequence of these advertising campaigns but many have also fallen through the cracks.
We will now take a look at some of the more common industrial disease compensation claims of recent times:-
- Asbestos compensation claims
- Vibration white finger syndrome
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Repetitive strain injuries
- Hearing loss/deafness
- Skin conditions
- Lung disease
- Respiratory conditions
Thankfully, due to developments in medical practice, many previously unrecognised medical conditions can now be diagnosed and are formally recognised by the medical profession. As a consequence, this makes it easier to pursue compensation where negligence can be proven against one or more third parties.
Physical and mental conditions
One other important change to mention is the way the legal profession views physical and mental conditions. Historically much more focus was given to physical injuries with many dismissing mental conditions. The situation has changed dramatically in recent times. Physical and mental conditions are now considered on an equal basis and as a consequence can both result in significant compensation. So, if you believe you developed occupational stress as a consequence of your working environment in years gone by, you may be able to claim compensation.
Is there a time limit for claiming industrial disease compensation?
As with more “traditional” personal injury claims, the time limit for claiming industrial disease compensation is three years. As we touched on above, this is one area of confusion that may have seen many perfectly valid claims fall by the wayside. With “normal” compensation claims the time limit would begin on the date of the accident – when many injuries are immediately diagnosed. The problem with industrial disease compensation is that many of these conditions may not emerge until years or even decades down the line.
Thankfully, the authorities have taken a sensible approach to this particular issue. The three-year time limit for claiming industrial disease compensation now begins on the day of diagnosis – potentially decades down the line. The rationale behind this approach is simple, if you were unaware you had developed a medical condition as a consequence of your working environment, how could you claim your rightful compensation?
How do I pursue industrial disease compensation?
There are many factors to take into consideration when looking to pursue industrial disease compensation. The first thing to do is gather as much evidence as possible about how you developed your condition. The various elements of proof might include:-
- Medical records/diagnosis
Due to huge developments in medical science, it is now much easier to associate medical conditions which emerge years down the line, with previous working environments. Some examples include asbestos (construction industry), vibration white finger (often associated with miners) and repetitive strain injuries (associated with any repetitive actions).
- Employment records
You may also need to supply employment records showing the period over which you believe your medical condition developed. This can be very important because some employers may have brought in new safety procedures after you were initially exposed to various substances/scenarios.
- Witness statements
If possible, witness statements and corroborating evidence from years gone by may also prove very useful. In the past, we have seen a number of collective industrial disease compensation claims. Individuals working over the same period were exposed to the same substances/actions and were able to prove the origins of their medical conditions.
- Training records
For many years now employers have had a duty of care to all of their employees. One of the main elements of this duty of care is initial and continuous training for all members of staff. This involves issues such as health and safety which is extremely important in the current environment. Were you given sufficient training?
- Lack of safety/protective equipment
Some of the working practices in years gone by are so far removed from the current environment that they are like night and day. If in hindsight, your employer failed to fulfil their duty of care at the time then this may well leave them open to a charge of negligence in regard to PPE.
- Risk assessment records
While risk assessments are an integral part of the current health and safety environment, they were also part of the working environment many years ago. If you are able to prove that your employer failed to carry out the necessary risk assessments this could be extremely helpful in pursuing industrial disease compensation.
- Timeline of pain and suffering
While this element will likely come under either medical records/diagnosis it is worthwhile creating a timeline of your pain and suffering over the years. In many ways this can make your case real, tangible, and the more details you can provide the better.
When you have collated as much evidence as possible it is time to approach a personal injury solicitor to review your case.
How much compensation can I claim?
There are two types of compensation known as general damages and special damages. General damages relate to:-
- Compensation for your pain, suffering, and loss of amenity
Special damages related to financial recompense such as:-
- Medical expenses to date
- Future medical treatment
- Travel costs
- Loss of earnings
- Additional equipment required
- Cost of changes to your home
The level of general damages is generally determined by industry guidance, based on previous industrial disease claims. Special damages will be calculated by your solicitor.
Appointing a personal injury solicitor
The area of industrial disease compensation is relatively specialist and it is advisable to approach companies with particular experience in this area. They will look through your evidence and give an independent assessment of your likelihood of success.
If they believe you have a good chance of success there is every likelihood they will offer to take on your case. The vast majority of personal injury claims/industrial disease compensation claims are pursued on a No Win No Fee basis. This effectively means that if we were to take your claim on, you are not liable for any costs incurred pursuing your case.
To discuss an industrial disease compensation claim with a solicitor you can call us free on 0800 652 1345.