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The claimant in this case, an engineer in his mid-40s, instructed our industrial injury solicitors via his union, Unite, to claim compensation for the hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) he developed as a result of exposure to the vibration he suffered in the workplace while using power tools.

The Consequences

Thompsons HAVS solicitors were given details of the claimant's workplace vibration exposure, during a period spanning March 2012 until his removal from tool use in July 2016.

This change in the claimant's working role was made following a confirmed diagnosis of hand arm vibration syndrome – nearly a year later he received a second, related, diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome.

There were some unusual features about the case, not least the relatively rapid onset of the condition; it often takes a decade or more of exposure to vibration for the symptoms of HAVS or carpal tunnel syndrome to develop. However, symptomology in this case was explained by the fact that the level of exposure involved was particularly high, something which had resulted in the Health & Safety Executive serving an improvement notice to the man's employer. Witness statements obtained from the claimant's colleagues further confirmed that there had likely been a number of serious breaches of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations.

Overcoming Tactical Delays and Defender Intransigence

Our client's workplace HAVS claim was complicated by the fact that it was vigorously defended by his employer. For example, although we instructed a leading Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon to compile a medical report on our client's condition, in which it was confirmed that he had likely developed both HAVS and CTS as a result of his exposure to vibration at work (with his condition rated as being at 1V and 3SN on the Stockholm Scale), the defender obtained its own report which contradicted these findings.

Despite this setback, Thompsons remained confident of success so proceeded to litigate robustly, raising the case in the Court of Session. We were supported in our action by Unite Legal Services, who funded a report from a consultant engineer which confirmed that the man's employers had been in breach of their legal duties towards him for a number of years by exposing him to vibrating tools.

Our case was further supported by an expert report we obtained from an Employment Consultant which concluded that the claimant's condition puts him at a disadvantage on the labour market. We also obtained the expert opinion of a Technical Director of Hu-Tech Ergonomic Factors, who identified workplace vibration as the cause of our client's conditions.

Unfortunately, the defender sought further medical evidence and at a late stage of proceedings instructed reports from a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, a Consultant Neurologist and a Consultant Psychiatrist. They also tried to discharge the original court hearing date in order to obtain further medical reports. We opposed this and organised a pre-trial meeting, during which we persuaded the defender to put forward an offer of £212,500 – a significant improvement on the offer of £75,000 they initially put forward during this meeting – this offer was accepted by our client.

A High Value HAVS Award

In fact, the award is significantly higher than the settlement figures generally agreed in vibration injury cases and was testament to the professionalism and tenacity with which we fought the case on behalf of our client. He confirmed he was happy to accept the sum and acknowledged that it sufficiently recognises the effect his condition has had on his employment prospects.

The claimant commented, "The service provided was professional and I was always kept informed of developments."

The case highlights the importance of not allowing defenders to produce evidence at a late stage or vary court dates with prejudice to the pursuer. It also shows the value of a robust and evidence-based approach to litigation as well as the value of pushing for larger settlement even when faced with a five-figure offer from an intransigent defender.

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