Insurers are at it again, only this time their focus lies with the industrial deafness claims as they accused lawyers of exploiting the lack certainty surrounding the condition, after a staggering rise in the number of compensation claims being made.
Never mind that there seems to be a genuine problem with employers maintaining their duty of care and exposing their workforce to unreasonable volume levels that has impaired people’s hearing for the rest of the lives.
No, it is the lawyers fault for having the gall to offer victims the chance to claim compensation for a condition that they did not ask for that will help them to adapt as they get older.
This time it was the turn of specialist insurer, ECIC, to stick the boot in on the legal industry as they claimed that they are managing more than double the number of deafness claims than they were between 2012 and 2013.
Claims Manager, Ian Hollingsworth said: “The rise in deafness claims is staggering and a real concern. While there will be genuine claims we do have a concern that a good proportion will be speculative and potentially exaggerated.”
“The best protection for employers is to ensure they follow the HSE’s guidelines to the letter. This will not only limit the risk of exposure, but offer some protection against liability claims and the solicitors now focusing on this type of claim.”
Insurers do not like to pay out compensation anywhere, regardless of whether it is deserved or not and perhaps had the employers kept to the HSE’s guidelines, which are set in place to protect employees from things such as industrial disease then there would not be so many people claiming for their genuine injury.
Of course the insurers crying ‘fraud’ has been heard before within the small claims industry, where with the Government’s help they were able to strip down access to justice for genuine victims based on unrepresentative figures.
Indeed, in that instance, major insurance company Aviva, even admitted that less than 2% of the claims they challenged as fraudulent turned out to be so.
The reforms that followed the insurers campaigning and Government’s soft touch for their campaigning forced solicitors to look elsewhere to remain in business and with education on such ailments as industrial deafness improving drastically, it is hardly surprising that so many have ended up offering representation for sufferers of industrial deafness.
The truth of the matter is that these people need help to get compensation so that they can adapt to the changes they are going to experience as they move forward in life.
No worker should go to work in unreasonable conditions whether it is to do with hygiene levels or the level of volume that they are being forced to operate in and up until recently nothing was being done to help these people.
The current HSE guidelines state that if work is undertaken in an environment where the noise levels are above 80 decibels on a consistent basis the action is needed to limit the risk of hearing damage and the litigation that would follow.
Mr Hollingworth went on to suggest that the hearing damage that is being suffered could even be caused by such things as the worker’s own MP3 players being set at a volume that is too loud.
He said: “The real challenge is in proving damage to hearing has occurred and, indeed that this has been caused by work given reports over the past few years warning of a rise in hearing loss in young people due to the use of MP3 players. This lack of certainty is something that is no doubt being exploited by the legal profession.”
Scott Rees and Co partner, David Byrne, laid waste to his claims though, and laid into insurers for trying to create smoking mirrors to what is a legitimate problem. He said: “The insurance industry has made no secret of its desire to see legal representation taken out of the claims process and this is just the latest in a long line of “boy who cried wolf” style claims, with fraud being the insurer’s wolf in this example.”
“During their prolonged campaign against the small claims process, they consistently showed ignorance towards real injuries such as whiplash, and what they mean for the victims who suffer from them.”
“They have shown a similar ignorance to Mesothelioma and if rumours were to believe, in fact, used it to try and monopolise favour with the Government and now they have moved on to deafness claims.”
“We have already heard the ABI label deafness as ‘the next cash cow’ and maybe when you look at things thoroughly you will see there is truth in that, although not for the personal injury solicitors, but the insurers themselves.”
“It is simply the next area within personal injury compensation claims that they are looking to tighten up on so they can make saving and improve profits on, while innocent victims, whose only crime was to go to work lose out.”
“The time has come for the Government to realise this and take action to preserve the rights of the victim and not the profits that the insurers can make if they successfully remove legal representation from this area of law.”
“What’s more, this is just further insurer led propaganda to make victims feel uncomfortable making claims for their deafness and this should not be accepted. If a worker has been wronged by those who have employed them and it has negatively affected their hearing, then we should be encouraging them to come forward and get the compensation they deserve and need in order to deal with their condition.”