Noise Induced Hearing Loss claims (previously known as Industrial Deafness cases) used to be very common in the 1980s and 90s, but as time moved on, there seemed to be fewer and fewer cases reaching solicitors until around four years ago when the numbers of cases started to escalate to record levels in 2014.
In Sheffield, we used to see numerous claims by former engineering and steel workers who had been exposed to excessive levels of noise in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s after which most larger employers realised that they had to monitor noise levels in their workplaces and introduce the compulsory wearing of hearing protection and other safety measures such as regular health checks to prevent their employees’ hearing being affected by working conditions. In the early years of the 21st century, it looked like those claims would disappear altogether.
The somewhat surprising increase in recent claims must, in my view, be due to widespread marketing by claims companies who were looking for potential clients to refer to solicitors in return for fees.
Statistics show that many of these new claims fail, often because the Claimants are too late or “out of time” to bring cases.
Normally, those who suffer industrial-related hearing loss have 3 years from the time when they knew that they had hearing loss attributable to working conditions in which to settle their claim or start court proceedings. After that they are time-barred by the Limitation Act of 1980 and case law.
In practice, many new clients cannot accurately remember when that time arose, so it is up to us lawyers to try and find out when a Court would rule that time started to run against them.
The first signs of noise-induced hearing loss (which affects the higher hearing frequencies) are usually when relatives of the person concerned start to notice that they have the TV turned up too loudly, don’t hear the telephone or doorbell ring and don’t hear people talking to them when they are not in the same room or actually looking at the person speaking. The people concerned will start to have difficulty following conversations in places where there is background noise such as in public houses, clubs and restaurants.
Often, this situation persists until they go to their occupational health doctor, GP, hospital or optician for a hearing test. Once they have that hearing test and are told that they are likely to have industrially-caused hearing loss, then time will certainly start to run. I will usually obtain and read my client’s GP records at the start of a case to see if there is any indication that they were told about such hearing loss by a doctor/optician more than 3 years ago before we decide to proceed. Unfortunately, I often do find such references and like most solicitors, won’t act for someone who runs a strong risk of losing on grounds of limitation.
In other cases, the client’s occupational health records have revealed that they were told about noise-induced hearing loss by a works doctor or nurse more than 3 years previously.
If you or one of your friends or relatives are considering bringing such a claim, I suggest you or they speak to a solicitor as soon as you or they think that you or they may have hearing loss as a result of exposure to excessive noise at work. The longer the matter is left, the less likely the claim is to succeed, irrespective of how severe the hearing loss is.
I’ll be happy to talk to you about such a claim, so please call me on 0114 218 4049 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
It will be the International Break this weekend so I probably won’t get to a football game. I’m secretly hoping for rain so I won’t have to paint the outside decking and will be able to retire to a place where I am still able to follow the conversation! Enjoy your first autumn weekend