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UK deafness claims reach all-time high

The number of UK industrial deafness claims hit an all-time high in the first half of 2015, topping the previous peak of 50,000 claims back in H1 2013, according to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

According to PwC's analysis of the data, the number of claims in the first six months of the year was 3 percent higher than in 2013.

Between 2010 and 2013 claims grew by over 50 percent per year, PwC said, estimating that claims from the period would have totalled nearly £675mn.

Industrial deafness - or noise-induced hearing loss - claims have come under particular scrutiny from insurers with significant employers' liability legacy books due to the disproportionate level of costs claimed by claimant solicitors.

The Association of British Insurers found that the average payment to claimant solicitors was around £10,500 - more than three times the typical £3,100 awarded to the claimant.

"Despite being on opposite sides, the claimant and defendant community clearly have a shared interest in ensuring that claims are resolved commercially, fairly and equitably," said Alan Augustin, director for PwC's corporate liability management team.

Last month, the UK Ministry of Justice announced that it was considering imposing fixed-fee recoveries for claimant solicitors pursuing noise-induced hearing loss claims against insurers.

Gregory Overton, actuarial services director at PwC, said that the claims and legal burden represented just a portion of the costs.

"Though the reserves for deafness generally make up only small proportions of insurers' overall reserves, the sheer volume of claims has given rise to increasing operational strain on the claims staff of many insurers and uninsured companies."

"Whilst we continue to see a significant number of deafness claims settle at nil cost, these claims still have to be appropriately reviewed. Strategies that reduce exposure, minimise costs and maximise claims handling efficiency will therefore be essential."

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