Exposure to hazardous substances can be dangerous, cause severe injury or illness, and even be fatal in some circumstances. In the short term, a chemical injury can be very painful and severe burns may cause shortness of breath, seizures, or a cardiac arrest.
In the long term, chemical burns and poisoning often cause scarring, deformity, blindness and permanent disability. This may impact your ability to work and lead to mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Chemical injuries are often related to an accident at work but could be due to other causes such as too much chlorine in a swimming pool, faulty products or burns from a hair dye. As long as your injury was due to someone else’s negligence, you might be eligible for compensation.
Accidental misuse or mishandling of chemicals is one of the most common causes of burn injuries in the workplace. According to the Health and Safety Executive, most accidents can be avoided if employers enforce the safe work practices dictated by legislation.
If you suffered a chemical injury because another party failed to maintain proper safety standards, you might be entitled to compensation. You can usually recover damages for your pain and suffering and all the economic losses and expenses related to your injury.
To find out if you have a valid chemical injury claim, enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser. If you have a fair chance of success, you will be offered a no win no fee service, so you can seek compensation without taking any financial risks or paying any upfront costs.
Can I make a chemical injury claim?
If you suffered an injury due to a harmful substance, there is every chance that you could make a chemical burn claim. Even if you feel that your mistake caused the accident, you could still claim if, for example, your employer did not provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
An experienced personal injury solicitor can let you know if you are eligible for compensation, but, as a general rule, a chemical injury claim should be possible if:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care
- They caused an accident by acting with negligence
- You suffered a chemical burn or poisoning because of that accident
Your solicitor will refer to legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 to establish a duty of care. After that has been established, they will help you show how the accident happened and who was responsible for it.
There are various pieces of evidence that you can use to support your chemical injury claim, including:
- Medical records showing the extent of your chemical injury, the treatments you received and any long-term effects. Thus, it is highly recommended you go to the A&E or minor injuries unit to ensure you receive proper treatment;
- An accident report you should file with the responsible party. Businesses and employers must have an accident log book and keep a record of all the accidents on their premises. You are legally entitled to ask for a signed copy of the report to show the date, time and location of your accident;
- Photographic evidence of what caused your injury will make it easier to explain how your accident occurred;
- Photographs of your chemical burn injury, your recovery process and any scaring;
- Statements from witnesses to your accident, so you should try to collect the contact details of anybody who saw what happened. If necessary, your solicitor will contact them at a later date to request a witness statement;
- If your accident was recorded on CCTV, try to secure a copy of the footage as soon as possible, as it could be deleted quite quickly;
- If you were the victim of an acid attack, report the incident to the police as soon as possible. This is an essential step if you want to claim compensation through the CICA;
- Your notes about how the accident happened and how it affected your daily life;
- Financial records of all the economic losses and expenses you incurred after your accident.
After preparing your case, your solicitor will send a letter of claim to the other side, informing them of your accident and the injuries you sustained. If they admit responsibility, you can begin to negotiate a settlement. Otherwise, you may have to issue court proceedings and prepare to argue your claim before a judge. However, this rarely happens, as over 95% of all personal injury claims are settled outside the courts.
What is a chemical injury?
A chemical injury refers to any harm to your body caused by coming into contact with a dangerous chemical substance. The two main types of chemical injuries are chemical burns and chemical poisoning. These could be due to swallowing, inhalation, subcutaneous injections or skin absorption.
The risk of chemical injuries is significantly higher for those working in specific industries such as agriculture, motor vehicle repair, manufacturing and engineering. However, it is not unusual for people to accidentally ingest or inhale toxic chemicals at home or in a public place.
Some common examples of accidents that might lead to a compensation claim include:
- Chemicals stored unsafely in the workplace
- Burns caused by too much chlorine in a swimming pool
- Burns caused by spillages at work
- Lack of proper protective equipment when working with dangerous substances
- Burns from a hair dye or another beauty product
Chemical injuries may also be due to an acid attack, a violent crime which involves throwing acid or another highly corrosive chemical onto another person with the intention to hurt, disfigure or kill them. The UK has one of the highest rates of acid attacks per capita in the world.
Sulfuric and nitric acids are the most commonly used substances in an acid attack. The long-term consequences may include eye burns, blindness, permanent scarring and disfigurement of the affected area. Besides the physical pain, an acid attack may cause severe psychological trauma, social distancing and financial difficulties.
If you were the victim of an acid attack, you could make a chemical injury claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. This is an executive agency of the UK Government funded by the Ministry of Justice that pays compensation to blameless victims of violent crimes such as acid attacks.
The most common symptoms of a chemical injury include:
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Itching and swelling
- A rash, blisters or burns on the skin
Severe chemical injuries may lead to permanent disfigurement, partial or complete loss of sight, amputations, cancers, coma and even death. If another person was at least partially responsible for your injury or illness, you might be entitled to compensation.
What is classed as chemical poisoning?
Chemical poisoning occurs when a certain amount of a toxic substance enters the body and has a harmful effect. Chemicals can enter the body in several different ways:
If chemicals are accidentally swallowed, they will enter the digestive system and cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, sudden behaviour changes and severe throat pain. If you ingest a poison, it is no longer recommended to induce vomiting. Instead, you should seek emergency medical assistance.
Inhaling toxic fumes and vapours can cause respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing and coughing and may also affect the nervous system causing mental confusion and loss of consciousness. If you inhaled a poisonous substance, you should immediately move to a place with fresh air and get medical attention.
By skin absorption
Many harmful substances such as solvents and pesticides can be absorbed through the skin and cause severe systemic health effects. If a toxic chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, rinse it with running water for 15-20 minutes and remove any clothing the poison touched.
Many substances could cause chemical poisoning, including cleaning products, pesticides, personal care products, paint thinners, carbon monoxide, metals and mercury. The effects of poisoning will depend on many things, including the substance, amount and type of contact. Your weight, age and health will also affect your symptoms.
The sooner you recognise the symptoms of chemical poisoning, the better the outcome. This may vary from short-time effects like a rash or brief illness to coma, permanent brain damage or even death.
If you suffered chemical poisoning due to another party’s negligence, you might be entitled to compensation. To find out if you are eligible to make a chemical injury claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.
What substances can cause chemical burns?
Chemical burns, also called caustic burns, are injuries to the skin, eyes or internal organs caused by contact with a corrosive substance. They can happen in the home, at work or in a public place and could result from an accident or an assault.
Chemical burn injuries are classified like any other burns, based on severity:
First degree burns
These are the mildest form of burn injuries that only affect the very surface of the skin and usually heal within 5-10 days without the need for medical care unless they have affected a large area of the body. While these can be painful, the skin will not blister.
Second-degree burns affect the epidermis but extend into the second layer of the skin. This may cause blisters, swelling, severe pain and light pink skin. A second-degree burn can take up to two months to heal and may leave scars.
Third-degree or full-thickness burns are deep and severe injuries that penetrate through the entire second layer of skin. They damage the nerve endings in the skin, so they are usually painless but need immediate medical assistance. Burns of this severity require surgery and skin grafting, and recovery is never complete, leaving scarring and contractures.
These are the most severe chemical burns you could get, and they affect underlying tissues like the muscles or bones. Since the nerve endings are destroyed, there is no feeling in the area, but they are potentially life-threatening and usually require amputation of the affected body part.
Many substances could cause a chemical burn injury, but the following are most commonly associated with a chemical burn claim:
- Ammonia, used in fertilisers, cleaning products and detergents
- Sulphuric acid, used in the manufacturing of fertilisers, cleaning fluids, car batteries and water treatment products
- Chlorine, a gaseous chemical used in many industrial and consumer goods, antiseptics and disinfectants
- Benzene, an extremely hazardous and toxic organic compound with carcinogenic properties, used mainly in the manufacturing of other chemicals
- Hydrofluoric acid, a component of pesticides, refrigerants, cleaning products and dust removers
- Hydrochloric acid, used in dye manufacturing, cleaners, pharmaceuticals and water treatment
- Mercury, used in a wide variety of products such as dental fillings, paints, soaps and batteries, is extremely toxic if swallowed and primarily affects the nervous system
- Sodium hydroxide, a corrosive chemical used to make common products such as drain and oven cleaners
- Phosphoric acid, common in detergents and disinfectants and used in the sugar and textile industries
If you suffered a chemical burn due to the negligence of another person or an acid attack, you might be eligible to make a chemical burn claim. You can find out if you are entitled to compensation by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser.
What should an employer do to prevent chemical injuries at work?
Chemical injuries are most often associated with accidents in the workplace and can affect a wide range of industries that involve working with industrial-strength chemicals or everyday substances.
There are several legal guidelines and legislation that employers must follow when working with dangerous substances. These include:
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
This is the primary piece of legislation that covers occupational health and safety in the UK. The Act outlines the general duties of an employer towards employees and members of the public, such as:
- Carry out adequate risk assessments
- Provide a safe working environment and good housekeeping
- Make sure all equipment and machinery are safe for the job and adequately maintained
- Eliminate or reduce risks as far as reasonably possible
- Provide health and safety training and supervision
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
The COSHH regulations provide specific guidelines on managing hazardous substances in the workplace. Every employer must prevent workers from exposure to dangerous chemicals by complying with the following requirements:
- Finding out what the health hazards are
- Put measures in place to decrease the risk of chemical injuries
- Provide adequate information, instructions and training to employees
- Keep all safety measures in good working order
- When appropriate, provide monitoring and health surveillance
- Have measures in place in case of emergencies
- Provide free and suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, gauntlets, goggles, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and face masks
- Make sure all dangerous substances are safely stored, including during transportation
- Put in place regular cleaning procedures
Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
The REACH regulation aims to provide a high level of health and safety protection for human health and the environment from using chemicals. Under UK REACH, businesses that manufacture or import substances into the UK must identify and manage the risks presented by these and show how they can be used safely.
If your employer failed to put adequate health and safety measures in place, they could be held liable for your injury. To find out if you have a valid chemical injury claim, enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser.
What industries are most at risk of chemical injuries?
Chemicals are used in many different workplaces and in many different ways. In the UK, around 13,000 deaths per year are linked to past exposure to chemicals and dust at work. While certain types of work carry a higher risk of injury, most chemical burns and poisoning happen in the following industries:
Farming often involves using various chemicals such as pesticides, fertilisers, solvents and metal fumes. Acute chemical poisoning is one of the most common chemical injuries, but many other illnesses can develop over time.
Most cleaning products contain substances that can be irritating to the skin and cause severe rashes. Without proper PPE, products that contain corrosive chemicals can cause severe burn injuries to the skin or eyes. The vapours from these products can also irritate the eyes, throat and lungs and cause asthma.
The adhesives and paints used in manufacturing put workers at high risk of respiratory and dermatologic illnesses. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of death from bladder, stomach, lung and other cancers.
The hazardous chemicals used in engineering include corrosive, radioactive and toxic substances. Careless mistakes and improper handling of these materials may lead to severe chemical burns and poisoning. To eliminate the risk of injury, employers must provide proper training and equipment for the job.
The flour dust, enzymes, flavour concentrates and disinfectant products used in the baking industry can be very hazardous to health. These may cause allergies to the respiratory system and the skin, including dermatitis and asthma. If your employer failed to provide adequate equipment to protect your health, you might be able to make a chemical injury claim.
The beauty industry
The substances used in the cosmetic industry can cause severe skin disorders, eye damage and respiratory illnesses. Almost all beauty products, including hair dyes and bleaches, shampoos and nail enamels, contain harmful chemicals that can cause injuries through short-term and long-term contact.
The inks, adhesives, cleaning solvents and many other substances used in printing can cause chemical poisoning and other injuries. The potential side effects of these chemicals include dermatitis, asthma, damage to internal organs and nervous system, skin burns and even cancer.
Motor vehicle repair
Mechanics are exposed to many hazards such as manganese, lead dust, fumes and solvents. The most severe effects of exposure to these chemicals are cancer, chemical poisoning, burns and birth defects. Overexposure to harmful substances can also cause damage to the lungs, kidneys, eyes and nervous system.
If your employer has failed to take all the necessary measures to protect you from harm, you might be able to make a chemical injury compensation claim.
How much compensation can I claim for a chemical injury?
The amount of compensation you might receive if you make a successful chemical injury claim depends on the details of your case. Your solicitor will consider everything you have been through and try to secure the best settlement you are entitled to.
In every claim, you can recover two types of damages which will determine the value of your compensation award:
Special damages are awarded for the economic losses related to your accident. These are your out-of-pocket expenses and can be determined by adding together all the reasonable expenses you incurred, such as:
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
- The cost of hiring help and assistance with daily tasks
- Cost of medical treatments
- Physical therapy and psychological counselling
- Cost of mobility aids and prostheses
- Adaptations to your home or vehicle to accommodate a disability
General damages represent the type of personal damages that cannot be assigned an exact monetary value, such as:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Loss of a unique career
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of amenity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement or impairment
Unlike special damages, there is no evidence or a set value associated with general damages, and they are often difficult to calculate. To determine how much compensation you should receive for your chemical poisoning or burn, your solicitor will refer to the guidelines set out by the Judicial College. Based on the Judicial College guidelines, you could receive:
- Up to £33,250 after an acid attack
- £12,100 to £16,300 for chemical burns caused by bleach
- Up to £30,000 for chemical burns due to a car battery acid incident
- Up to £25,500 for injuries caused by chemical pool chlorination negligence
- £3,950 to £11,020 for damage to hair caused by chemical products
- £3,710 to £12,900 for a chemical burn injury causing minor facial scarring
- £1,890 to £6,240 for minor non-facial scarring
- £16,860 to £45,440 for severe facial scarring and disfigurement
- £7,830 to £22,730 for moderate scarring to the legs, hands, chest, back or arms
- Over £104,830 for burns that cover 40% or more of the body
- £1,540 to £5,860 for minor psychiatric damage
- £59,860 to £100,670 for post-traumatic stress disorder that severely interferes with the victim’s ability to function
To start your chemical injury claim or find out more about your compensation prospects, call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser. Or, if you would prefer to receive a call back, enter your details into our online claim form.
Is there a time limit to start a claim?
Usually, the time limit to bring a personal injury claim is three years from the date of an accident. Once the three years have passed, your case becomes statute-barred, and you will likely lose your chance to claim for compensation.
In extraordinary circumstances, the court may allow an extension of the time limit to claim, depending on the extent and reason for your delay, but this rarely happens. It is always advisable to take legal action sooner rather than later, as this will make it easier for your solicitor to collect evidence and talk to witnesses.
There are a few exceptions to the three-year limitation period to make a chemical injury claim, such as:
- In case of chemical poisoning or burns caused by inhalation, your injuries may not become apparent immediately after exposure. In these circumstances, the three-year time limit will begin on the date your injuries were diagnosed, which is referred to as the date of knowledge.
- When the victim is a child, the three-year time limit is suspended until they turn 18. A litigation friend, usually a parent or legal guardian, could claim compensation on their behalf anytime within this period.
- If a loved one died because of a chemical injury, you have three years to start a claim, either from the date they passed away or the date a post-mortem highlighted the cause of death.
- The time limit could be shorter if you suffered an injury or illness due to chemical poisoning while working or on holiday outside the UK. In this case, it is essential to contact a solicitor as soon as possible.
- There is no time limit to claim compensation for an individual who lacks the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings, either as a result of the chemical injury or due to a pre-existing condition.
- If your chemical injury was due to an acid attack, you have two years to make a CICA claim. To be eligible for criminal injury compensation, you must have reported the accident to the police, preferably within 24 hours of the attack.
- Military personnel injured during service can claim through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme within seven years from an accident. Alternatively, they have three years to make a chemical injury claim under civil law.
To ensure you do not miss your chance to get compensation for your injuries, start your claim as soon as possible by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser.
How much will it cost to make a chemical injury claim?
If you have a valid chemical injury claim, you do not have to worry about the costs of pursuing compensation. Your solicitor will offer you a no win no fee service, meaning that:
- You do not have to pay any upfront fees to your solicitor. If they believe you have a solid case with a fair chance of success, they will help you win the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
- If you ultimately lose the case, you do not have to pay a single penny to your solicitor.
- You can pursue compensation regardless of your economic situation and without taking any financial risks.
- Your solicitor will take out an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy on your behalf. The ATE insurance is a standard part of any no win no fee claim and provides full coverage for all the legal expenses involved in claiming if your case is unsuccessful.
- You can focus on your recovery while your solicitor takes care of collecting evidence, speaking to witnesses and keeping all the paperwork up to date.
- You get a free medical assessment with an independent healthcare provider, which will serve as proof of the extent of your injuries and any future needs you could claim compensation for.
If you claim on a no win no fee basis, you can be confident that your case has merit and that you are not wasting your time. Your solicitor will not recover their costs if you do not get compensation, so you can be sure they are fully motivated to win your chemical injury claim.
You only have to pay anything after receiving compensation for your chemical burn, and the following will be deducted from your award:
- The cost of the ATE premium
- Some basic legal fees that the defendant cannot cover
- A success fee that your solicitor gets for the risk they took by offering you a no win no fee service. The success fee is capped at 25% of your compensation award and will be discussed thoroughly before the solicitor takes on your claim.
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a no win no fee claim and can answer any questions you may have.