The impact of noise induced hearing loss claims

In recent years, the number of Noise Induced Hearing Loss claims has increased by 300% . In the vast majority of these cases, it is alleged that negligent exposure occurred with more than one employer, resulting in solicitors being able to recover additional legal costs at the conclusion of a successful claim.

In recent years, our customers have seen a dramatic rise in the number of compensation claims being pursued for Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). In the vast majority of these cases, it is alleged that negligent exposure occurred with more than one employer, resulting in solicitors being able to recover additional legal costs at the conclusion of a successful claim.

Although regarded as a historical problem, the claims presented today range from exposure in the mid 60’s to the present day. This can make life very difficult, as defending these claims will often come down to the availability of historic documentation and witness evidence.

Records have shown that in recent years claims have come from every possible industry imaginable including allegations from library workers. With this in mind, it is difficult to find a customer who has not been impacted by the rise in NIHL claims. To compound the problem further, when a genuine claim is paid, other employees will often be targeted by Claims Management Companies (CMC) in an attempt to convert more people into making a claim.

The tactics of some CMCs have been called into question, with poor practices that have focused on local advertising campaigns and cold calling activity simply aimed at increasing the volume of NIHL leads. An example of which was highlighted by the regulator recently when, under new laws, The Hearing Clinic was fined £220K for making millions of cold calls.

Over the last 5 years the notification of NIHL claims has increased by 300%. Recent reports suggest 80,000 NIHL claims are now being intimated each year, with the average cost of each claim exceeding £15,000; the impact is clearly being felt by all.

The rise in NIHL claims is directly associated with large sums that solicitor firms can recover in legal fees. For every £1 paid in damages, £3 will be paid in legal fees.

The problem has been compounded by the changes brought about by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offender Act 2012 (LASPO). In an attempt to reduce legal costs in other areas, LASPO introduced a fixed fee matrix for both liability and Road Traffic Act claims. However, NIHL claims were excluded where the negligent exposure was alleged to have occurred with more than one employer, which accounts for approximately 90% of claims.

As a result of LASPO, solicitor firms soon turned their attention to NIHL claims as the vast majority of cases involved multiple defendants, leaving them free to continue to charge on an hourly basis, resulting in a flood of new NIHL claims to the market.

There are many possible responses to the surge; these include introducing fixed legal costs for all NIHL claims, implementing an agreed panel of experts who can correctly assess causation and the introduction of a minimum threshold for damages, where a loss only becomes compensatable above a specific decibel (dB) level. Progress in the latter is already making ground following the rejection of a claim at trial early this year where the hearing loss was assessed at less than 3dB.

Allianz continues to work with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to lead the push for reform. A positive step forward in the fight to reduce legal spend and control volumes is the Government recently asking the Civil Justice Counsel (CJC) to explore the introduction of fixed costs for NIHL claims. Until further reform is implemented, our expert disease handlers will continue to work closely with our customers to reduce the impact that these claims are having. We are one of the few general insurers that have retained the handling of all NIHL claims in house, investing in our people to manage the increase in volumes and delivering the best result for our customers.

As a result of this strategy, our customers are benefiting from one of the highest repudiation rates in in the industry. With 86% of Allianz NIHL claims being settled without any form of compensation payment being made, we are doing all we can to protect our customers from those disingenuous claims.


Courtesy of Allianz Insurance.