I want to know if I can claim chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compensation, as I believe I contracted COPD in the workplace after years of inhalation of coal dust. How can I prove I contracted the disease at work?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

You can claim chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compensation if you contracted the disease in the workplace from the inhalation of coal dust, provided that you can establish and prove that your employer has been negligent and failed to do enough to protect you from the lung disorder.

Although it is not possible for an employer to totally eliminate the risk of inhaling coal dust, your employer should have been aware of the risks to staff and done all that was practically possible to lessen the risk. It is an employer’s legal responsibility to ensure that employees are provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and that exposure to coal dust is kept to the minimum practical level. When an employer fails in a duty of care to employees, and COPD is contracted, it is possible to claim COPD compensation against the employer’s liability insurance policy. Claims for COPD are possible against an employer, provided that it can be established that the condition was contracted due to exposure to coal dust in the workplace.

Occupational Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is usually caused by the inhalation of gasses or small airborne particles in the workplace when insufficient protection has been provided to employees. COPD is a term which is used for a number of lung problems, some of which occur naturally. Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of COPD, so you must be able to establish that you developed the condition at work, rather than personal choices you made such as smoking in order to make a successful claim for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compensation. Claims for COPD against employers where a claimant is a smoker can become highly complicated.

It is often not possible to determine the causative agent of COPD with 100 percent certainty. Since it can often not be proved that COPD developed due to working conditions alone, you will need to be able to prove only that COPD developed ‘on the balance of probabilities’ due to the negligence of your employer. Due to the problems of proving negligence in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease compensation claims, a personal injury solicitor should always be used to pursue COPD compensation.

A personal injury solicitor will arrange for you to be examined by a doctor with extensive experience of COPD and lung disorders. A solicitor will help you prove ‘on the balance of probabilities’ that the condition was caused by exposure to coal dust in the workplace, and that your employer has been negligent. If you or your solicitor are able to locate any former colleagues who also contracted Occupational Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease due to working for your employer, that would also be used as evidence to support your claim for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease compensation.

Since COPD is incurable, the level of compensation for COPD awarded in successful COPD claims can be substantial. Because of this, it is not unusual for insurance companies to vigorously defend any claims for COPD compensation. The experience of a personal injury solicitor is therefore invaluable. If you use a personal injury solicitor to prepare and pursue your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compensation claim it will ensure that your claim has the maximum chance of being successful.