NIHL claims and “the compensation culture”

When I started off at the Bar, about 90% of the work that I undertook were personal injury and industrial disease claims. A significant proportion of the latter category of claim involved claims for industrial deafness and tinnitus, now known collectively as NIHL.

Over 20 years, I have seen the volume of work flow, and ebb and flow again.

In the early days many of the cases were brought by Trade Union firms against industrial concerns represented by panel firms instructed by the Iron Trades.

The plaintiffs were often retired men, who had spent a lifetime in heavy industry, often working for various emanations of the steel making or mining or railways industries. They had a long history of exposure to noise, deep bilateral notches on their audiograms, and often the only real issue in the case was limitation.

These days both the features of an NIHL claim and the legal market within which they are litigated has wholly changed.

Quindell was only the most obvious manifestation of a company which has pushed hard the latest flow of NIHL claims; more generally the claims management industry is running at full speed, promoting claims; by way of example in the last year I have been telephoned three times at home by nice young ladies who have asked me whether I have ever worked in a noisy environment and have kindly suggested I might benefit from a hearing test.

Now as well as limitation, breach of duty and also medical causation are very much on the menu, as notches have become bulges and issues over noise dose and hearing protection may be heavily contested.

So I read with interest the latest ABI report entitled Tackling the Compensation Culture a title seemingly consciously borrowed from the Labour government’s 2004 paper which proposed amongst other things raising the small claims track limit to £5000.

The report can be found here: Tackling the Compensation Culture.

As one of its more important suggestions is the introduction of a regime for fixed costs, I have written a paper which will be published in Litigation Funding this August on what the future has in store for NIHL lawyers.

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