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Monday, 22 June 2015

Insurers now attack deafness claims - what next??

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is developing a habit of selecting certain areas of legal work. It then launches attacks on the integrity of both victims and their advisers. The latest target are workers who have been exposed to excessive noise at work and suffered hearing loss as a result.

They are reportedly seeking a ‘crackdown’ on such claims using tactics that they successfully used in relation to ‘whiplash’ claims. They say that out of 200,000 claims submitted less that one fifth were eligible for compensation. That tells us nothing about the genuineness of victims. It tells is that there are lawyers are submitting claims which they have not properly screened and for which neither they nor their client will get paid. It might even identify some lawyers who should not be dabbling in specialised work.

Their spokesman James Dalton refers to a similarity between concerns over medical evidence in relation to deafness and whiplash claims. In fact they could not be more different. Medical evidence in relation to whiplash injuries is by nature subjective. It is not always possible to verify the extent of a purely soft tissue injury.

Noise induced hearing loss is capable of very detailed objective assessment. A carefully prepared audiogram alongside a history of working with noise provides a clear basis to pursue a claim. In many cases I could tell you if the hearing loss is likely to be caused by noise.

The only similarity to whiplash cases is that insurers don’t like them.

The report goes on to complain that costs can heavily exceed the value of the claim. In saying this they ignore the behaviour of insurers –

In this earlier blog I talked about a case where the insurers decided to throw the kitchen sink at our client’s case. I think the hope was that the costs would become so high that we would lose our nerve. The case settled for £4.5k and the costs were eventually agreed at £69k. This was a case that should have settled early at a fairly modest cost. Why is this the victim’s fault?

There is something disturbing about these ‘reports’. The ABI seems to be intent on defeating genuine claims by the back door. Rather than go through due process, they rely on the support of a government, which consistently gives them what they want.

There is no evidence at all to support this move.

But you can be sure that we will soon be reading tabloid headlines referring again to a mythical ‘compensation culture’. Rules will follow that will seek to restrict the rights of workers.

There are many battles ahead.

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