In the UK, companies are responsible for the health and safety of their employees while they are at work and as such are required by law to hold employers’ liability insurance to protect their staff. When it comes to hearing loss, some industries are more susceptible than others – businesses classed as heavy industry, where you’d expect to find high levels of noise, like factories or ship building yards, for example – and this is where we've traditionally seen most of claims come from.
However, this trend has changed in recent years with light industries like textiles, food production, logistics and small manufacturers now generating the majority of claims. Claims volumes have also increased – rising from 3,000 a month in 2011 to over 10,000 a month in 2013 across the industry.
Insurers have seen a similar proportional increase and while they remain committed to paying compensation to support genuinely impacted workers and their families, there is increasing evidence of fraud which insurers are now activity combating. So what’s causing the rise?
In July 2013, the Ministry of Justice introduced fixed costs for many types of personal injury claims with a value up to £25,000 (the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents and the Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury (Employers’ Liability and Public Liability) Claims). As a direct result, a typical claimant’s solicitor fee for an employer’s liability claim governed by the protocols dropped to around £1,500.
Industrial deafness claims, however, are not governed by the protocols and can therefore still be processed on an 'hourly rate' basis, up to 10 times the fixed fee amount. It is this potential to generate additional revenue that is fueling increasingly aggressive claims farming – where unscrupulous firms encourage people to make speculative ad often unsubstantiated claims.