Personal Injury Claims for Hearing Loss

Under what circumstances can you recover compensation for hearing loss in a personal injury claim?

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

If your hearing loss is caused by someone's negligent or intentional behavior, you might be entitled to compensation as a form of personal injury.

How does someone else typically cause hearing loss? Often these types of injuries are workplace-related. For example, an employer uses machinery or devices devices that emit loud noise and cause hearing damage. The employer may be liable for the damage if, for example, the employer has disregarded regulations – typically enforced by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Further, if the employer fails to warn you about dangers from noise in the workplace, you may also be able to pursue a lawsuit. For example, in 2010, over 150 employees of a paper mill sued their employer over noise-related hearing loss. In most work related cases, though, a workers compensation claim is the exclusive source of compensation.

Typically, hearing loss injuries result from one of three situations: (1) a prolonged exposure to overly-loud noises, (2) injuries to the head during an auto accident or another type of accident, or (3) exposure to a sudden, extremely loud noise.

Claims for compensation can be made to the party causing the injury (the "defendant") or the defendant's insurance company. However, not every injury resulting in hearing loss may qualify as a personal injury such that the injured person (the "plaintiff") can seek damages.

Compensation Claims for Hearing Loss

Hearing loss may result in a sizeable payment of compensation. For example, in 2007, a man from Connecticut filed a lawsuit after suffering a hearing loss and constant ringing in his ears, when a tire from a Jeep Wrangler exploded. He was awarded 1.5 million in damages.

As noted, loss of hearing can be compensated for in a personal injury action, but only if it was caused by another person's actions. You may even recover compensation for hearing loss due to a physician's treatment (prosecuted through a medical malpractice action).

The loss does not have to be total; partial loss, even if lasting only for a period of time, may result in compensation. To receive damages, the injured party must prove that their hearing was unaffected prior to the person's actions, that the action caused them to lose their hearing, and that they incurred expenses as a result of their hearing loss.

Permanent damage, if any, is also compensable. The amount of money awarded for it depends on the individual's age and whether the permanent loss is total or partial. Additionally, traditional compensation is awarded for similar losses.

Standards for Recovering Compensation

Regardless of type, the event that caused the hearing loss must have been one that the plaintiff did not willingly submit to. Therefore, hearing loss after attending a fireworks show is unlikely to be a compensable injury. In general, to recover, the injured must demonstrate that the person who caused the injury had a duty to avoid hurting others, the person caused the injury (or was the proximate cause), the breach of the duty resulted in the injury, and the injury resulting in financial harm.

An individual suffering from hearing loss can obtain compensation for his past and anticipated future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Compensation for past medical expenses is on a dollar-for-dollar basis, but future medical expenses will be estimated based on physician testimony about how much additional treatment is necessary. Lost wages are also compensated for in their exact dollar amount.

Obtain legal representation if you have suffered hearing loss due to another person's behavior. A lawyer will review your medical records and discuss the types and amount of compensation you may receive in a lawsuit or insurance claim.

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