Figures provided by Allergy UK suggest that the UK has one of the highest prevalence rates regarding allergic conditions anywhere in the world. It is estimated that more than 20% of the UK population are affected by at least one allergy and more, some of which can be life-threatening. In the 20 year period up to 2012, UK hospitals saw an alarming 615% increase in the number of hospital admissions related to allergic reactions. Unfortunately, those who do not suffer from serious allergies tend to dismiss the potentially fatal issues surrounding sufferers.
What Causes An Allergic Reaction?
The simplest way to describe an allergic reaction is the way in which your immune system handles different proteins which are contained in various types of food. Your body can see these proteins as a potential threat which causes the immune system to release an array of chemicals which trigger an allergic reaction. The severity of any reaction will vary but in some circumstances it can prove fatal and therefore the issue of allergies is taken far more seriously today than it ever has been.
There are various common foods which trigger allergic reactions in children and adults. The more common foods which can trigger allergic reactions in children include:
The situation is a little different in adults with allergies more common when eating:
- Walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds and pistachios
There is no one exclusive list which covers all potential food allergies with an increasing number also being reported when eating:
- Sesame seeds
- Various fruit and vegetables
- Pine nuts
It is also worth mentioning that there is a massive difference between a strong dislike of a particular food and an allergic reaction. In the case of anaphylaxis shock, which is the most extreme of allergic reactions, the body goes out of control releasing massive amounts of chemicals in order to fight a false threat. There is a growing debate as to why we have seen such a large increase in allergies with some suggesting a change in diet and lifestyle as well as “germfree” environments which can have a detrimental impact upon the long-term strength of your immune system.
To give an example, data from the NHS and reported by the BBC shows that in the financial year 2011/12 there were 22,206 admissions as a consequence of allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock. This increased to 29,544 in the financial year 2015/16 and unfortunately many experts believe that this trend will continue for some time to come.
Claiming Compensation For An Allergic Reaction
In December 2014 the UK authorities tightened the regulations surrounding how the public are advised of potentially allergic ingredients in food or for example hair products. This ensures that anybody who has an allergy to a specific ingredient will be able to identify this before potentially putting themselves in harm’s way.
While it will be impossible for retailers, product and service providers to communicate individual allergies to individual customers the Food Safety Act 1990 was the initial act of Parliament introduced to manage food allergies. Therefore, all businesses and service providers have a legal obligation to make customers and staff aware of the ingredients in food and other items such as beauty products via in shop notices and signs. In relation to hairdressing, this is why you should be made aware of potential allergic reactions to different products. Indeed, many of the more careful hairdressing salons will test various products on customers for allergic reactions but in only very small doses.
If a business has highlighted various products and ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction then in reality they have fulfilled their legal duty. Unfortunately, we have seen many companies attempting to cut corners in relation to cost and cheaper products. This has resulted in a number of restaurants and takeaways being prosecuted for using substitute ingredients which have in some circumstances turned out to be fatal for their customers. Make no mistake, all businesses need to address the issue of potential allergic reactions and if their procedures are found wanting then they will likely face prosecution.
Proving Negligence In An Allergic Reaction Compensation Claim
As with any personal injury claim for an allergic reaction there is a need to prove negligence on behalf of one or more third parties. We know from the recent tightening of allergy regulations that the presence of potentially allergic ingredients needs to be publicised to all customers. In some circumstances a claimant may need to prove that they enquired about a potential allergen in a product they were about to buy, consume, or use. There is also a requirement to prove that a particular substance brought on their allergic shock (there are various tests available to help in this area) although many people will already be aware of their allergies.
The majority of us are perhaps more familiar with anaphylactic shock which occurs extremely quickly once an individual has either ingested or had contact with a substance to which they are allergic. However, some allergic reactions can take a little longer to show therefore there is a need to keep detailed records of what you ate in case of suing a restaurant for allergy reactions or other eatery you had visited and the potential source of the allergic reaction.
Where anaphylactic shock occurs there are a number of tests which healthcare professionals are able to carry out to confirm the specific allergen. In instances where medical treatment is required various information will be collected which can be used to pursue an allergic reaction claim for compensation. This can include a:
- Measurement of mast cell tryptase which can specifically highlight anaphylactic shock.
- Review of potential triggers related to locations visited by the victim.
- Summary of treatments administered..
- Copy of the patient records showing the overall impact of the reaction
- Summary of all investigative procedures carried out to pinpoint the trigger.
The degree of allergic reaction will vary from person to person taking in such issues as:
- Sneezing and a runny nose
- Streaming eyes
- Swelling around the mouth and the eyes
- Gastric upset
- Various types of eczema
- The emergence of weeping pores on the skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Fainting brought on by low blood pressure
- Collapsing into a coma
Again, this list is not inclusive but it does show the extreme variety of reactions when suffering from an allergy.
Taking Steps To Avoid An Allergic Reaction
While there is obviously a legal obligation for businesses to ensure customers are well aware of the ingredients of various products, many of those suffering from allergies will already be aware of the triggers. If an individual was to put themselves in a situation where they are likely to come into contact with an allergen, which may prompt a reaction, then they are at least partially to blame for any problems which might occur. In the case of ingredients on prepacked food, those who suffer from, for example, a nut allergy would be expected to check the ingredients before consuming the food. If you are eating out at a restaurant there will likely be a number of warnings on the menu but if unsure you should always ask for details about various ingredients.
If you have suffered an allergic reaction in the past, to possibly a cosmetic product, then you also have an obligation to advise the beautician/hairdresser before any treatment is carried out. In summary, the greater emphasis is placed upon businesses to advise customers of the ingredients of various products but customers also need to take partial responsibility especially if they are aware of ingredients which may trigger an allergic reaction.
Collecting Evidence For An Allergic Reaction Claim
There are various degrees of allergic reaction, some minor while others which can be fatal. If you believe you have suffered an allergic reaction due to some form of negligence by one or more third parties then you need to collate information regarding the incident and the aftermath. Obviously, the first port of call would be medical assistance to ensure any danger to your life is addressed as soon as possible. This will also result in details of the incident, the type of allergic reaction and the circumstances being noted on your medical records, which can be used as evidence when pursuing your allergic reaction claim.
In a perfect world, further evidence such as photographs, witness statements or indeed records suggesting this had happened before at the establishment would strengthen your case. This is not always possible due to more pressing issues such as medical treatment, etc. It is also worth noting that while in theory you have a three-year window of opportunity to claim for allergic reaction compensation, as time goes by the details can become blurred which can impact your case. Therefore, where possible it is advisable to pursue any allergic reaction claim for compensation sooner rather than later.
Once you have collected this information you should sit down with your legal representative and present your evidence. They will likely have experience in an array of different situations, including allergic reactions, and the legal duty of care that establishments have in relation to their customers/staff. The majority of law firms will also have third parties they can contact for further guidance with regards to the strength of your case.
If your case is deemed to have a minimum 60% chance of success then you will likely be offered a No Win No fee arrangement which negates your liability to the legal costs of the law firm. In the majority of cases, where negligence is fairly easy to prove, the defendant will often approach the claimant about an out-of-court settlement which will reduce their legal expenses. However, where negligence is disputed, or there is potentially shared negligence, the case will go before the courts and a judge will make a decision based on the evidence.
Compensation Payments In Allergy Claims
Many people are unaware that there are two specific types of compensation payments for claims such as allergic reaction which can be awarded in light of a successful claim. The first type of compensation is known as general damages and relates to compensation for the actual injury of the allergic reaction, taking into account:
- Pain and suffering because of the allergic reaction
- Life changing injuries
- Mental trauma
The level of general damages offers a degree of discretion but the actual award will be based upon similar injuries in historic cases. There may well be variations to take into account the specifics of individual cases but in general there will be a fairly narrow band for different classes of injury. The other type of injury is known as special damages and takes into account:
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of future earnings
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Adaptions to the home
- Additional transport costs
There is no degree of variation when it comes to special damages which are essentially reimbursement of costs associated with the allergic reaction and funding for future expenditure directly related to the injury.
If you feel you have a case for making an allergic reaction compensation and need expert advice or would like to lodge a claim please call today to speak with a solicitor.