The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is warning that the UK’s on-going compensation culture is resulting in thousands of people wrongly being led to believe they can get compensation for hearing problems as claimant lawyers and claims management companies shift their attention to lucrative noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) claims.
A new ABI report shows insurers have seen opportunistic claims for NIHL, also known as industrial deafness, significantly increase in recent years.
Since 2012, more than 200,000 claims for NIHL have been submitted but less than a fifth have been eligible for compensation, mainly due to the poor quality of evidence provided because the claimant’s hearing loss cannot be linked to the workplace. The flood of claims is slowing down the time it takes to get compensation to genuine claimants.
A new ABI report, “Noise Induced Hearing Loss Claims: Improving the claims system for everyone” demonstrates that:
· Claims for noise induced hearing loss being notified to insurers increased by 189% between 2011 and 2014
· Excessive legal costs mean that on average for every £1 paid in compensation to the successful claimant, £3 is paid out in legal costs to the claimant’s lawyers
· Vital reform is required to improve the process for those genuine claimants.
The report also identifies problems with the quality of medical evidence for NIHL claims, especially the audiology tests being submitted.
Genuine claimants for industrial deafness often worked in heavy industry during the 1960s and 1970s. To be eligible for compensation the claimant needs:
· to have evidence of their employment
· to have medical evidence in the form of an audiology test which demonstrates the NIHL was due to exposure to noise in the workplace
· to submit the claim within three years of becoming aware their hearing loss was due to exposure to noise at work.
James Dalton, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance Policy, said;
“Thousands of people who worked in noisy environments in the 1960s and 70s without the right protection were rightly compensated in the decades which followed. These claims naturally tailed off following the introduction of better health and safety measures across British industry.
“The recent spike in claims can only be a result of claimant lawyers spotting the potential to earn sizeable fees from these cases after their sky-high earnings from whiplash claims were reduced. The claimant lawyers and claims management firms are intent on exploiting the new source of income which deafness claims represent, irrespective of whether the claims they put forward are genuine..”
To help genuine claimants while reducing excessive legal costs, the ABI is calling for:
· NIHL to attract fixed legal fees in a similar way to whiplash claims. This will stop claimant lawyers driving up excessive legal costs
· amendments to the current Claims Portal to ensure that more NIHL cases can be submitted through it, which would improve efficiency and reduce the time it takes to get compensation to genuine claimants
· Medco to be extended to cover audiologists so insurers can be reassured about the financial independence of people carrying out the required hearing tests and that they are subject to a rigorous accreditation framework.
The industry is meeting to discuss this issue this morning (Tuesday June 16th) and to mark the publication of the ABI’s full report on this issue which is available from the ABI press office.
Notes for Editors
Malcolm Tarling 020 7216 7410 Mobile: 07776 147 667
Sarah Cordey 020 7216 7375 Mobile: 07860 189071
Caroline Jones 020 7216 7327 Mobile: 07725 245293