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ABI demands crackdown on industrial deafness claims

James Dalton [1]

Dalton: claimant lawyers ‘intent on exploiting the new source of income’

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is demanding a whiplash-style crackdown on industrial deafness claims.

Among the measures called for by the ABI are fixed fees and changes to the personal injury portal to increase the number of deafness claims.

The ABI is also asking for MedCo, the controversial new system for allocating medical experts in whiplash cases, to be extended to industrial deafness cases.

This is necessary, the ABI argued, so insurers are reassured about the financial independence of people carrying out hearing tests and that they are subject to “rigorous accreditation”.

In a new report on noise-induced hearing loss claims, the ABI said that since 2012, more than 200,000 deafness claims had been submitted. Less than a fifth were eligible for compensation, mainly due to the “poor quality of evidence provided”, meaning that the claimant’s hearing loss could not be linked to the workplace.

The ABI said that claims notified to insurers increased by 189% between 2011 and 2014. The average compensation payment in 2013 was estimated at £3,100, while average legal costs were £10,400.

James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the ABI, said thousands of people who worked in noisy environments in the 1960s and 70s were “rightly compensated” in the decades which followed.

“The recent spike in claims can only be a result of claimant lawyers spotting the potential to earn sizeable fees from these cases after their sky-high earnings from whiplash claims were reduced.

“The claimant lawyers and claims management firms are intent on exploiting the new source of income which deafness claims represent, irrespective of whether the claims they put forward are genuine.”

The ABI report said it had found a “number of similarities in the nature of concerns” over medical evidence between whiplash and deafness.

These were a lack of independence between those people commissioning the audiogram and those carrying it out, “insufficiently qualified” audiologists, audiograms being carried out in “unsuitable, non-clinical surroundings” and a “lack of objectivity” by reporting consultants.