In order to succeed in a damages claim for industrial hearing loss, the Claimant must prove a number of different things. These hurdles must all be successfully crossed before the case wins and damages are paid. Falling at any one of the hurdles will mean that the whole claim fails.
A Claimant must prove that:
- they suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus. This can only be proved by obtaining a detailed medico legal report from a suitably qualified expert who will examine the injured person, analyse their medical records and audiograms and consider any other relevant information in their medical history.
- that the hearing loss or tinnitus was caused by noise at work (as opposed to age related hearing loss or deafness caused by noisy hobbies like shooting or listening to very loud music). As above, this evidence can only be prepared by a medico legal expert with sufficient knowledge of noise induced hearing loss cases.
- the noise that they were exposed to at work was actually in breach of the law – exposure to noise cannot be avoided and is not illegal, but employers must abide by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (and previous similar noise induced hearing loss Regulations) to keep the noise below specified guidelines. In order to consider whether or not the noise is too high, the Claimant will need to appoint a suitable expert acoustic engineer. The engineer will be able to analyse the noise surveys, risk assessments and injury reports produced by the employer. They may also be able to carry out a site inspection of the workplace itself and carry out measurements of the noise to confirm whether it is higher than specified by the relevant noise induced hearing loss regulations or not. They will pros detailed report of their findings for the benefit of the Judge and the parties.
- the claim must be brought within strict time limits – generally speaking the claim must be brought to Court within 3 years of the date that the person suffering from industrial hearing loss first knew (or should have knows) that it was likely to be related to work. Req here for more information about the time limits that apply in noise induced hearing loss cases.
In some countries, a "no fault" system exists. This means that is it not necessary to show fault or any specific breach of the law by someone else when you suffer from noise induced hearing loss or tinnitus. However, the British system is more adversarial and another persons breach of duty is required before any claim can be successful.
There are many hurdles to a successful industrial disease claim as described above. This is why most people will require the help of a specialist personal injury lawyer to guide them through the process. We are not attached to any specific firm, but recommend that you seek legal advice from an expert as soon as possible if you believe that you are suffering from noise induced hearing loss, because any delay can be detrimental to the claim and mean that you fail due to the strict time limits. We recommend APIL or the Law Society as good starting points for identifying suitable, specialist industrial disease solicitors.