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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor