Some 85% of claims made to insurance giant Aviva for industrial deafness fail to demonstrate any link to workplace noise-induced hearing loss, the company said this week.
Aviva claimed that many deafness cases are brought by “opportunistic lawyers” looking for new revenue.
The insurer said it received 11,000 claims in 2014 – a four-fold increase since 2009. Since 2012 it has paid out more than £1.2m to claimants, and £5.5m to their lawyers.
Ian Harvey, senior claims manager at Aviva, said: “Aviva recognises the problems caused by exposure to damaging levels of noise at work and we do all we can to settle genuine claims promptly. People who have been exposed to loud noise throughout their career and demonstrate noise induced hearing loss should be compensated. However, it cannot be right that for every £1 Aviva pays to genuine hearing loss sufferers, the claimant lawyers receive £5.
“Too many industrial deafness cases are submitted by opportunistic personal injury lawyers with the support of claims management companies that actively encourage people to make claims. They are not serving the best interests of claimants by submitting claims using poor-quality hearing tests.”
Aviva set out a range of reforms that it said would improve the claims process, including fixed legal fees, expanding the claims portal to include multi-defendant claims and establishing a panel of independent hearing loss experts “to reduce spurious and fraudulent claims”.
Mr Harvey said: “There is an accepted standard for industrial deafness hearing tests that requires testing to be undertaken in sound-proofed, rooms with specialist equipment. However, we are seeing evidence of tests being done poorly and conducted in, for example, community halls and shopping centres. In some cases, no hearing tests are conducted at all…
“We also call on the recently announced Insurance Fraud Task Force to recommend a programme of reform which will make these claims simpler to process and discourage lawyers from submitting weak cases they know are likely to fail.”