Insurance groups have begun to complain about the newest threat they face to their bottom lines in the form of injuries leading to deafness and hearing loss, with one industry expert calling work accident claims involving deafness ‘the new whiplash.’
The number of personal injury compensation claims involving hearing loss escalated by almost 25 per cent last year, according to Zurich, one of the largest insurance companies in Europe. Meanwhile, the total number of deafness-related claims in the UK was estimated at 35,000 in 2011, according to one personal injury solicitor.
Whiplash claims and deafness claims contain a common thread in that many of them may be spurious, according to insurers, suspecting that claims management companies and personal injury lawyers are working to entice individuals to make claims by offering free hearing aids to those with hearing loss. However, charities and law firms pointed instead to recent legislation update that could be the reason behind the rise: the noise threshold that must be met by an employee before they can seek compensation for damage to their hearing was lowered recently.
The Health and Safety Executive said that there are more than 1 million British workers exposed to dangerously high noise levels. Around 17,000 of them are already suffering from hearing loss as a result of excessive work noise; while the number of deafness claims generates nowhere near the massive £2 billion that the whiplash claims industry does, insurers are always looking after their bottom line, it seems.