Guide to Work Illness Compensation
There are very few circumstances when claims for work illness compensation are straightforward. Many work related illnesses can take years to manifest and victims can often complicate their own work illness compensation claim by trying to work through an occupational injury.
Establishing negligence when claiming work illness compensation can also be difficult if a protracted period of time elapses from when you were exposed to a harmful substance until the symptoms of an occupational injury manifest. This is especially true of claims for work related illnesses where the employer may no longer be in business or multiple employers may be liable for your condition.
This guide to work illness compensation covers many of the most common occupational injuries that can occur in the workplace, but it is neither comprehensive nor a substitute for seeking independent and professional legal advice when you have been diagnosed with a work related illness that could be attributable to the negligence of an employer.
Work Illness Compensation and Your Health
It should go without saying that your health comes before making a claim for work illness compensation, but many people continue to work while suffering from allergic or asthmatic conditions due to their work environment. People who suffer pains in their arms after working with vibrating tools, or those whose hearing deteriorates while they at work, may not recognise the symptoms of a work related illness until their condition deteriorates to such a point that significant medical attention is required or their occupational injury becomes irreversible.
Consequently it cannot be stressed enough that if you feel you are suffering physically from the conditions in which you work, it is of vital importance that you seek a professional medical examination – and not just First Aid – at the earliest possible opportunity. No amount of compensation for work illness can ever make up for a lifelong health problem which could have been prevented with timely medical treatment, and failure to seek medical attention at the earliest possible opportunity can also be unhealthy for your work illness compensation claim.
Should you allow an occupational injury to deteriorate due to your own lack of care, it might legally be considered that your “contributory negligence” caused your work related illness to become worse than it may otherwise have been. Although this would not disqualify you from making a claim for work illness compensation, how much compensation for work illness you receive may be reduced – so much so that you could find it difficult to cover medical expenses or even provide support for your family.
Establishing Negligence for Work Illness Claims
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, establishing negligence for work related illnesses can often be difficult – even when you have sustained an occupational injury for which the symptoms appear almost immediately. The following is a list of work related illnesses which would qualify for compensation in certain circumstances. Again, this list and the circumstances under which you might be entitled to claim work illness compensation is neither comprehensive nor any substitute for discussing your occupational injury directly with an experienced personal injury solicitor.
Compensation for Work Allergy Illness
There are many examples of where a work allergy illness could have been avoided had a thorough risk assessment been conducted and personal protective equipment provided. A claim for work allergy illness compensation could be due to the failure of an employer to assess a risk to health and provide gloves or dust masks to prevent occupational injuries such as:-
- Allergic contact dermatitis
- Latex allergy at work
- Occupational dermatitis
Compensation for Work Asthma Illness
Similarly, work asthma illness compensation claims could be avoided if employers provided protection against exposure to dust, spores, vapours and chemicals which generate known occupational asthma illnesses. Claims for work asthma illness compensation may be made many years after a condition has started to develop, and can include:-
- Asthma caused by colophony
- Asthma caused by enzymes
- Asthma caused by flour
- Asthma caused by grain
- Asthma caused by isocyanates
- Asthma caused by laboratory animals
Compensation for Work Asbestos Illness
A claim for work asbestos illness compensation is a prime example of a work illness compensation claim which might be made against an employer who is no longer trading or multiple employers. The process for claiming compensation for work asbestos illness can become complicated in these circumstances, and you should delay in contacting a solicitor if you have been diagnosed with:-
- Diffuse pleural thickening
Compensation for Work Sensory Illness
Your employer has a responsibility to provide you with a safe environment in which to work and in which none of your senses should be put at risk of injury. However, exposure to loud noises, bright lights and vibrating tools can all damage the senses and entitle you to make a claim for work sensory illness compensation. Such occupational injuries would include:-
- Hand arm vibration syndrome
- Industrial deafness
- Vibration white finger
- Work-related tinnitus
Compensation for Work Respiratory Illness
There is a substantial overlap between what are considered respiratory diseases, asthmatic illnesses and occupational injuries attributable to the inhalation of poisonous substances and allergens. Nonetheless, where an employer has failed in his duty of care to protect you from avoidable breathing disorders, you are entitled to claim for work respiratory illness compensation if you suffer from:-
- Acute or chronic silicosis at work
- Farmers lung
Compensation for Work Metal Poisoning Illness
Some of the most serious industrial diseases can be attributed to metal poisoning at work, and strict procedures should be in place to eliminate the risk of a work metal poisoning illness. However, if an employer has failed to train you about the risks, or monitor your work when handling hazardous substances, you could be entitled to claim for work metal poisoning illness compensation if you sustain an occupational injury due to:-
- Chromium poisoning at work
- Mercury poisoning at work
- Welding rod fumes at work
Compensation for Work Chemical Poisoning Illness
Chemical poisoning at work manifests in many different circumstances. Practically every company uses chemicals in one form or another and claims for work chemical poisoning illness compensation can be made against employers who negligently expose you to the risks of chemical poisoning when you are diagnosed with:-
- Benzene poisoning at work
- Carbon monoxide poisoning at work
- Dioxin poisoning at work
- PCB related illnesses
- Rubber chemical exposure at work
- Solvent related illnesses
- Toluene exposure at work
- Exposure to p-phyenyldiamine (potentially responsible for bladder cancer at work)
Many of the above scenarios are in contravention of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 and/or the European Directive on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals (REACH) 2007, and where your employer has failed in his duty of care to protect you from risk of injury – and you sustain a work related illness as a result – you are entitled to make a claim for work illness compensation.
Lyme Disease Work Illness Compensation
One of the fastest emerging work illnesses in the UK is Lyme Disease which mostly affects people who work in grassed or woodland areas in industries such as farming, gardening and forestry. This infectious work-related illness is contracted by being bitten by infected ticks and, as the disease is now identified as a hazard under COSHH regulations, employers have a responsibility to advise employees of the risks of Lyme Disease, train them on precautions to take to avoid being bitten by an infected tick and provide personal protective equipment in the form of high concentrate DEET.
Any incidence of Lyme Disease should be immediately reported to the HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 and, if an occupational Lyme Disease illness is sustained because of the failure of your employer to advise, train or provide protective equipment, you will be entitled to make a claim for Lyme Disease illness compensation.
Procedures for Claiming Compensation for Work Illness
Once you have been diagnosed with an occupational injury, there are certain procedures that need to be completed prior to making a claim for work illness compensation. Depending on your health, you may need assistance with some of procedures, and it is recommended that you speak with a solicitor if you are encountering problems with the course of action you need to follow.
The first item on your to-do list should be to advise your employer of your work related illness and make a record of your occupational injury in the employer´s “Accident Report Book”. The Accident Report Book may reveal that other people have sustained a similar illness to you, and this could add strength to your claim for work illness compensation. It is certainly a possibility that a solicitor would investigate.
Once your occupational injury is recorded, you employer has a legal obligation to report your work-related illness to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) if you have lost consciousness due to exposure to a harmful substance or if your occupational injury results in an absence from work of more than seven days. The HSE may launch their own investigation into the circumstances surrounding your work related illness – the results of which could also support a claim for work illness compensation.
It is not ideal to wait until the HSE has concluded its investigation before speaking with a solicitor, as liability for your injuries may readily be admitted by your employer or – should the HSE find your employer negligent – you may be approached by his Employer Liability insurance company with an offer of work illness compensation before you have had the opportunity to have a professional assessment of your claim.
Settlement Offers of Work Illness Compensation
Approaches by your employer´s insurance company are not necessarily a bad thing, as they are an admission of liability and provide a starting point for negotiations if you have already engaged a solicitor to act on your behalf. However, it has to be remembered that insurance companies hold their own self-interests higher than yours and – without having undergone an assessment of your work illness claim – neither you nor the insurance company will know whether the offer of early settlement represents a fair and adequate amount of work illness compensation.
There is a serious risk of being under-compensated for your occupational injury, which could leave you with inadequate funds to cover the costs of medical treatment and support your family. If your occupational injury is of such severity that you may never work again, it is strongly recommended that you refer any approach by an insurance company to your solicitor for, if the compensation settlement does prove to be insufficient, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more.
If your short-term finances become a problem, it may be possible for your solicitor to apply for interim payments of work illness compensation to be paid to you. This is often possible when liability for your work-related illness has been determined, and a delay in the settlement of your claim is due to ongoing negotiations or waiting for a medical prognosis to establish how much compensation for your future care requirements will need to be included in the settlement.
How Much Compensation for Work Illness Will I Get?
How much compensation for work illness you are entitled to receive will depend on the extent and severity of your occupational injury in relation to your age, sex and general state of health before the exposure to a hazard at work. Employees who smoke may also find that how much compensation for work illness is affected by their habit as will those who have contributed to their work related illness by their own lack of care (see “Your Health” above).
The impact that your work related illness makes to your quality of life and ability to perform day-to-day activities will also be taken into account in a work illness claim and any quantifiable psychological injury which can be attributed to your work related illness should also be included. Although few work related illnesses are directly responsible for an emotional trauma, if you develop an irreversible work illness or permanently lose your hearing due to the negligence of an employer, this could have a significant influence on your future mental health.
Any expenses or loss of income which are due to your occupational injury can also be recovered in a claim for work illness compensation, and a solicitor preparing a work illness compensation claim will ask you to retain invoices and receipts for costs you have incurred so your financial status is no worse after your claim for work illness compensation is resolved than if your work related illness had never occurred.
How the Statute of Limitations Affects a Claim for Work Illness Compensation
The Statute of Limitations is an act of law that sets a limit on the time you have available to make a claim for work illness compensation from the date on which you were diagnosed with a work related illness. It is important the difference between sustaining an occupational injury and being diagnosed with an occupational injury is understood, as it could lead some people to believe that they may not be qualified to make a claim for work illness compensation.
A claim for work illness compensation can be made within three years of being diagnosed with a work related illness – also known as the “date of knowledge” – but it is not advisable to leave it until the last possible moment in which to contact a solicitor. Work illness compensation claims can take a considerable amount of time to prepare if the employer responsible for your occupational injury is no longer trading or your work related illness could be attributable to more than one employer. It is therefore in your best interests to discuss the circumstances of your work illness with a solicitor as soon as any immediate health issues have been dealt with.
No Win, No Fee Claims for Work Illness Compensation
A further reason for seeking professional legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity is to ensure you are able to obtain legal representation on a “No Win, No Fee” basis. Solicitors are prepared to offer no win, no fee representation (also known as “conditional fee agreements”) to claimants who have a strong claim for work illness compensation.
The terms of No Win No Fee claims for work illness compensation vary according to the nature of your illness, and your solicitor will discuss the options available to you when you first speak with him or her about your illness and its consequences. You will then be able to decide if you have a claim for work illness compensation that is worth your while to pursue.
Making a Work Illness Compensation Claim against an Employer
In addition to having fears about their health and future financial security, some employees may also be apprehensive about making a work illness compensation claim against an employer. Most employers will be genuinely horrified that an employee has sustained a work related illness for which they were to blame, but should the employee have concerns about how making a claim for work illness compensation may affect your future employment prospects or damage a relationship with an employer, this could dissuade them from claiming for work illness compensation.
Employees – and other contracted workers – are protected by employment law in these circumstances, and an employer is not allowed to sack or otherwise penalise an employee for making a claim for work illness compensation against them. Any settlement of work injury compensation is paid by the employer´s Employer Liability insurance policy and not from his own pocket or the company you work for; so you should have no reservations about making a work illness compensation claim against an employer. If you do, it is in your best interests to raise them when you speak with a solicitor.
Work Illness Compensation Summary
No two claims for work illness compensation are identical – even if the symptoms of an occupational injury you experience are the same as a work colleague. The circumstances surrounding a work related illness, whether you contributed to the cause of your illness, how long you left it before seeking medical attention and the impact that an occupational injury has had on your quality of life can all influence how much compensation for work illness you may be entitled to receive.
Other factors – such as HSE investigations, the intervention of insurance companies and your own personal feelings about making a work illness compensation claim against an employer – can also affect the success of a claim for work illness compensation. At a time when you may be physically and emotionally drained due to your occupational injury, it is advisable to speak with an experienced personal injury solicitor in order to receive professional assistance with the claims process and to ensure that you receive your maximum entitlement to work illness compensation.