Deafness is the new whiplash

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The Association of British Insurers has warned that claims for industrial deafness have surged since 2009.  Why has there been such a rise and how can you defend your business.

The numbers

A report published in The Times newspaper identified that claims management companies and personal injury lawyers believe they have a new cash cow.  Rather than focusing their attention on whiplash claims they are now targeting industrial deafness, thanks to high fees that are on offer.  According to the Association of British Insurers, the average fee for settling an industrial deafness claim is £10,500. In contrast, a minor whiplash fee may be as low as £500.

Flooding in

Insurer Royal and Sun Alliance (RSA) has stated that it’s receiving more than 800 new claims for industrial deafness per month.  This figure is almost double the amount per month it received in previous years.  Aviva has reported that its deafness claims rose from 2,400 to 11,467.

Why the rise?

David Williams, managing director at AXA Insurance, said “In the same way as whiplash-related injuries, the lack of a clear diagnostic framework has meant that deafness in the workplace can be used as the basis of exaggerated or fraudulent claims”.

Although the claims companies are crawling all over this new market, it appears that insurers are already one step ahead of them.  For example, RSA reports that it has rejected 70% of the claims it has received so far, and other insurers are telling a similar story.

Defence

As soon as the insurer asks for evidence of the injury, or the claim is challenged on other grounds, AXA says that 75% of demands are dropped.  This is where you come in.  For an insurer to be able to defend a claim, they will need to be able to prove that the individual (or group) who claims to have been subjected to harmful levels of noise was not exposed whilst they were working for you.

Costly

Although the insurer is liable for the claim, if it’s proven that you haven’t taken reasonable steps to manage noise risks – and a claim is successful – you can expect to see a sharp rise in your employers’ liability insurance premiums.  Therefore, it’s very much in your interests to help your insurer bat away any claims.

 

Tip 1.  Your first step is to identify whether your staff may be exposed to potentially harmful noise levels.  Ask yourself “do workers struggle to hold a conversation whilst standing two metres apart?”  If so, noise levels could cause damage.

 

Tip 2.  If noise levels are too high, look to reduce the problem at source.  Also consider issuing staff with hearing protection.

 

Tip 3.  Keep records of your actions, including the steps taken to reduce the noise, names of staff issued with hearing protection, the date of issue and the type.