Deaf workers accused of 'new whiplash' claims in insurance fraud

Firms are dismissive of complaints by employees who have suffered hearing loss in the workplace

Compensation claims for industrial deafness have risen by two thirds over the past two years, according to insurance and legal experts. Despite the increase, however, only one in 10 cases are being paid out amid claims of widespread fraud.

An estimated 80,000 claims were made last year, compared with 55,000 in 2012, according to the Institute of Actuaries. With only 10 per cent successfully receiving payouts, Industrial Deafness cases have been dubbed "the new whiplash" by some insurers. AXA insurance had more claims for industrial deafness than any other type of workplace injury or illness in 2012, at a cost of £26m. Aviva, one of Britain's largest insurance companies, is said to reject 85 per cent of new claims, stating that "the vast majority of these claims are fraudulent". But there is mounting concern the high number of alleged false claims may have a negative effect on those suffering from genuine hearing loss.

Sir Malcolm Bruce, MP and Vice Chair of the UK Parliamentary Group on Deafness, said: "There is certainly a danger for those affected by hearing loss to be swept up by the no-win no-fee promises from injury-based law firms, but it is important to stress that sufferers should seek help and advice from the NHS, who can provide the right support."

A recent crackdown on fraudulent whiplash claims may also be a factor: insurers now suspect injury-based law firms of encouraging clients to make lucrative claims against damage to hearing instead.

Hundreds of injury-based law firms advertise compensation sums online of up to £70,000. Unlike whiplash, however, deafness can be measured against objective criteria, making it easier to define and consequentially easier for claims to be accepted or rejected.

Clients typically receive between £3,000 and £5,000 in compensation for minor hearing loss or tinnitus. Employees must confirm that their workplace showed negligence over safety measures necessary to protect them against noise.

New claims against industrial deafness often date back several years to periods of less assured health and safety procedures. Chris Wood, Senior Policy and Research Officer at the charity Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID), said: "There is a higher prevalence of hearing loss in the north-east of England, where many people now in their 70s and 80s had to work in noisy environments without hearing protection."

Similarly, the increase in the number of cases may be related to the lowering of the noise threshold above which compensation can be claimed. Employers are now liable for exposing their workers to noise upwards of 80 decibels, and must provide protection even in situations when the wearing of protective headphones is not a legal requirement.

The Chairman of the parliamentary group on deafness, Sir Stephen Lloyd, said: "Awareness of the impact of excess noise on hearing in the 1970s and 1980s was not as good as it is today, so it stands to reason that some people may well have been adversely affected. However, a properly trained specialist should be able to ascertain whether or not deafness was due to excess noise in the workplace or a natural part of the ageing process."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick