Q&A - Can I claim damages for industrial deafness?

Q: I recently had a hearing test and was diagnosed with noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). I was made redundant four years ago after working for 30 years as a press operator, but have since discovered my old press shop has now been made an ear protection zone. Can I still make a claim?

A:  You will need to establish that your hearing loss was caused by exposure to noise in excess of statutory maximum levels when you worked for your former employer and that you have not been exposed to excessive noise outside of a working environment e.g. noisy hobbies or pastimes, exposure to gunfire or explosives. Statutory provisions within the Noise at Work Regulations apply to noise exposure in the workplace. Expert acoustic evidence may be required to establish your former employers' liability, in addition to a supportive diagnosis of NIHL.

Normally in personal injury claims you have 3 years from the date your injury was sustained in which to issue court proceedings. It is possible however that you have been exposed to excessive noise levels over many years and therefore your ‘injury' has been sustained over a period of time. Potentially you can still make a claim provided you have not been aware for more than 3 years that you sustained an injury/damage to your hearing for which your former employer could be held liable. As you appear to have only recently become aware you should therefore take steps to pursue the matter as soon as possible, to avoid any such claim from becoming statute barred. A further consideration is a change to the law regarding compensation payments which comes into force this April, which means if you want to keep as much of your compensation as possible it would be best to sign up to a no-win no-fee agreement before the end of March.