New diseases spur growth for north west firm

New diseases spur growth for north west firm

A law firm is increasing staff numbers as it gears up to handle for new types of industrial disease claims.

Roberts Jackson, of Wilmslow, said new types of injuries or sicknesses resulting from long-term exposure to occupational hazards in the workplace, including ‘BlackBerry thumb’ and ‘popcorn lung’, would fuel the firm’s expansion.

Traditionally, industrial disease claims have related to asthma, asbestos-related illnesses, dermatitis, allergies, vibration white finger and occupational deafness and tinnitus.

But partner and co-founder Karen Jackson said increased awareness of other types of diseases was going to lead to more people seeking compensation.

Karen, who has 15 years’ experience in the field, said: “If no-one knows about the risks involved, they won’t sue, but more and more people are becoming aware of health hazards in the workplace. ‘BlackBerry thumb’ is the overuse of a mobile phone for work purposes, and we envisage potential work in this area as more people are using their handsets when they’re on the move, which is leading to repetitive strain injury. A lot of people displaying symptoms associated with RSI do not realise they are work-related, but the number with symptoms is increasing.”

Another disease, which is known as bronchiolitis obliterans or ‘popcorn lungs’, can have an impact on employees working in popcorn factories or becoming over-exposed to the nation’s favourite cinema snack. The popcorn contains diacetyl, a chemical used to produce the butter-like flavouring, but over-exposure to it can cause lung damage.

Karen said: “There was a recent action in America that resulted in workers in a popcorn factory making a claim against their employers because they weren’t given the proper safety equipment, including masks when making popcorn.

“Employers need to be more aware of what they are exposing their employers to, and popcorn lung is an example of new types of industrial disease actions.

“We are also anticipating more actions against hairdressers.

“A recent study by the Health And Safety Executive reported that up to 70 per cent of hairdressers suffer from work-related skin damage, such as dermatitis at some point during their career. Most cases are absolutely preventable if the right health and safety rules are followed.”

Karen has had experience in acting for claimants and defendants in industrial disease cases and was a partner at Berrymans Lace Mawer in Manchester for six years, where she trained insurers including ACE, Capita, Allianz and Zurich on industrial diseases before setting up her own practice in 2009.

The firm, which has 25 fee earners, is currently dealing with 2,300 cases and has already settled 200.

“We run a very niche practice and there’s no disease we don’t cover,” said Jackson.

“We treat all our claimants as corporate clients and like to settle cases as soon as we can, rather than sit on them for months. We have good relationships with the defendants and all our staff are trained to the highest level in this area.”

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