According to Irish government statistics, more than half a million workdays are lost in Ireland each year due to work related accidents and illnesses. Compensation claims for work related accidents when the employer is at fault are well chronicled, but work illnesses compensation claims are often much harder to substantiate.

Types of Work Illnesses

When work illnesses occur, they frequently develop over a long period of time. Symptoms of work illnesses such as asbestosis may not manifest for twenty years or more. Repetitive movement work illnesses, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and vibration white finger may go unnoticed for up to ten years. Prolonged and unprotected exposure to fumes, chemicals and dusts are further reasons for employees sustaining work illnesses.

Stress is acknowledged to be a killer, and employers have an obligation to plan, schedule and supervise workloads to ensure that an employee does not develop a work illness because of the demands placed upon them. The same obligations apply to prevent bullying, harassment or discrimination in the workplace – known stress accelerators and sufficient reason for a work illnesses compensation claim.

Treating Work Illnesses

Before considering work illnesses compensation claims, it is vitally important that you seek medical attention for your condition. Some asbestos related work illnesses are fatal or can require an extensive period of treatment. Even chronic carpal tunnel syndrome can require surgery and up to a year away from work. Your doctor´s medical notes will be the primary support to your claim for work illnesses compensation.

A change of environment can provide respite from employees suffering from any kind of stress but as the symptoms of these types of work illnesses may also take a long time to manifest, the physical damage may already be done. A further stress factor may be introduced if the employee brings a work illnesses claim for compensation against an employer. This is why a work illnesses compensation claim is always best made with the assistance of an experienced personal injury claims solicitor.

Liability for Work Illnesses

An employer has an obligation under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act to provide employees with a safe environment in which to work, and in work illnesses compensation claims it has to be established that the employer has failed to do this. Liability could be due to the lack of physical protection from micro-particles in the atmosphere, making employees work in conditions which lead to repetitive strain injuries or failing to make an adequate risk assessment of workloads.

In a number of cases, the employer may claim – sometimes justifiably – that the employee has contributed to his work illness by his own lack of care. In these work illnesses claims, the degree of contributory negligence has to be resolved before a claim for work illnesses compensation can be finalised.

Compensation for Work Illnesses

Work illnesses compensation claims are initially handled by the Injuries Board Ireland. How much work illnesses compensation you receive will depend on their assessment of your “injury” and the length of time it may take to recover. Consequently, they may neglect to make an assessment which covers your long term rehabilitation requirements – focusing solely on the physical injury you have sustained – and leave you undercompensated if you have long term care requirements.

Therefore, it is always in your best interests to use the services of an experienced personal injury claims solicitor when making a work illnesses compensation claim. A solicitor will ensure that your work illnesses compensation claim includes all the “special damages” that you are entitled to receive. They will represent you in litigation when issues concerning liability arise and the Injuries Board Ireland declines to assess your work illnesses claim.

Legal Advice for Work Illnesses

Inasmuch as an employer may be horrified that his negligence has caused you to sustain a work related illness, his feelings of sympathy may be tempered when he discovers he is being sued for work illnesses compensation. The prospect of an awkward workplace confrontation dissuades a number of people from making a work illnesses compensation claim, but by using a solicitor to assist with your claim this scenario can be avoided.

A solicitor will also intervene if the employer or his insurance company approaches you with an offer of early settlement for your work illnesses claim. Even when your employer´s intentions are good, the amount of work illnesses compensation offered is rarely comparable to the Injuries Board Ireland´s assessment. The intervention of a solicitor who has up-to-date information about the value of work illnesses compensation will ensure that you receive a fair and adequate amount.

Work Illnesses Summary

  • Work illnesses come in many forms and often take many years to manifest before you realize something is wrong
  • By explaining to your doctor what you do for a living, he may be able to make a diagnosis which connects your occupation to your illness
  • In many cases the best cure for work illnesses is a long rest or change of scenery from the source of the illness
  • Although employers may be quick to express sympathy for your situation, they may be advised by their insurance companies against admitting liability
  • Quite often, the special damages you are entitlement to will make a significant difference to the value of your work illnesses compensation claim
  • To ensure that you receive appropriate amount of work illnesses compensation and avoid any liability issues – consult with a solicitor

If you find that other employees are suffering from similar symptoms, or this particular work illness has occurred previously, this will greatly enhance your prospects of a successful work illnesses compensation claim. You should advise your solicitor in such an event as he will liaise with other legal professionals to make your claim stronger.

If you are yet to engage a solicitor, and would like to know more about your entitlement to claim work illnesses compensation and special damages, you are invited to call our free claims advice helpline on 1-800 989 900. Our service enables you to speak directly with an experienced personal injury claims solicitor and receive helpful and accurate advice. All calls to our free claims advice helpline are completely confidential and there is no obligation on you to proceed with a work illnesses compensation claim once you have spoken with us.

We look forward to hearing from you and helping you soon.

Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell

Eoin P. Campbell About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose primary professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.