Recently there has been a steady increase in the number of claims surrounding deafness in the workplace. One of Europe’s biggest insurers, Zurich, recently reported that the number of hearing losss compensation claims increased by approximately 25% in the last year. That brings the annual total of UK claims to around 35,000!
Though these figures alone are enough to cause concern, what’s even more worrying is the fear that a large number of these workplace hearing loss compensation claims may be falsified. These fears have led many insurers to brand deafness claims as “the new whiplash”.
Claims are coming in from a variety of industry sectors; from catering and hospitality to manufacturing. Despite the large number of dubious claims, deafness related claims have received little attention in comparison to whiplash.
It is thought that the recent surge in hearing related claims is being fuelled by 2 main factors:
Firstly, some lawyers and other compensation firms have been offering a range of free products, including iPhones and hearing aids, and generous cash back schemes in order to coerce clients into making a compensation claim. Hearing related claims are amongst the most lucrative for law firms and claims companies. They are able to recover success fees and hourly rates. This is a far more profitable model than the fixed fees typically associated with road traffic accident claims.
Secondly, there has been a recent change in health and safety regulations which has lowered the acceptable level of noise in the workplace and enabled a greater number of employees to seek compensation.
It is estimated that as many as 1 million employees across the UK suffer excessive noise in the workplace. As such, there is significant scope for genuine and justifiable claims to be made.
Hearing loss difficult to prove
The main stumbling block for most claimants is that deafness claims are notoriously difficult to prove. There is often a lengthy time period in which hearing problems develop which often means there isn’t enough paperwork to make a case. Personal Injury lawyers often have a range of other competing factors to take into consideration which can be complicated and lengthen the process. As a result, only 50% of claimants proceed to full settlement.
Though many within the industry believe that, like whiplash claims, many workplace deafness claims are unsubstantiated and fraudulent, it does seem like the process is managing to filter these claims from the genuine ones