An Introduction to Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is an emerging infectious condition that was only identified in 1978 and included in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations as recently as 2010. If you contract Lyme Disease, the consequences can be life-changing; and if you contract the disease due to the negligence of an employer, you are entitled to claim compensation for Lyme Disease at work.
How Lyme Disease is Contracted
Lyme Disease is caused by bacteria transmitted to humans via the bites of infected ticks. Infected ticks can be found throughout the UK (including the Royal Parks of London) but are most prevalent in areas where deer may be present – including the New Forest, South Downs, Exmoor and the West Coast of Scotland. Those most at risk from contracting Lyme Disease at work include:-
- Park Rangers
- Land Surveyors
- Construction Workers
- Forestry Workers
- Cattlemen and Dairy Farmers
- Brush Clearers
- Farm Employees
- Park or Wildlife Management
- Other Outdoor Workers
The risk of a Lyme Disease injury is at its greatest in the summer months, but with estimates suggesting that one-in-forty ticks in the UK could be carriers of the infection, a bite from a tick should be treated with the utmost caution at any time of the year.
The Symptoms of Lyme Disease at Work
The most immediate indicator that you have been bitten by a tick and may have contracted Lyme Disease at work is a bullseye shaped rash which develops in the area of the bite. Symptoms of Lyme Disease at work may manifest at any time from three to thirty days after the rash appears, and quickly sweep through the body as the infection develops and enters the bloodstream.
Typical early symptoms of Lyme Disease at work include tiredness, localised muscle fatigue and headaches. Flu-like symptoms, heart palpitations and dizziness can develop as the bacteria moves around the body and many people develop a purplish lump which can appear on or near an ear lobe, a nipple, or the scrotum. If the symptoms of Lyme Disease remain untreated, they can lead to sleep disturbances, memory loss and mood changes, and one-in-eight case will develop still further into meningitis.
Although the early symptoms of Lyme Disease at work can be treated with antibiotics, as the bacteria responsible for creating the infection can survive against the body´s immune defences, it can take many years until even a mild Lyme Disease infection is totally eliminated.
The Consequences of Contracting Lyme Disease at Work
Many of the symptoms associated with Lyme Disease at work can be confused with other illnesses. Lyme disease can be misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus and other neurodegenerative diseases. Consequently there is the possibility of being treated for a condition you may not have while your health continues to deteriorate.
If this scenario happens, there is a risk of permanent neurological injury including paraplegia, cognitive impairment, facial palsy, anxiety attacks and frank psychosis – a psychiatric disorder similar to schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder. No amount of compensation for Lyme Disease at work will ever make up for one of these conditions which could have been prevented with appropriate medical treatment. Therefore, if you feel that your symptoms could be attributable to a bite from an infected tick, speak with your doctor at the earliest possible opportunity and advise him or her what it is you do for a living.
In addition to the debilitating symptoms that might occur when you sustain Lyme Disease at work, some studies suggest that the condition may be transmitted to a partner through sexual contact. It is acknowledge by medical experts that one of the coinfections of Lyme Disease – babesiosis – can be transmitted by blood transfusion and result in the development of malaria-like symptoms.
The Prevention of Lyme Disease at Work
In order to prevent the risk of an employee contracting a Lyme Disease injury, an employer should advise you of the risk of contracting the disease and provide you with personal protective equipment in the form of DEET to apply to your skin and Permethrin to apply to clothing. Among the training that should be provided to avoid contracting Lyme Disease at work you should be told to:-
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long-legged trousers, with the trousers cuffs tucked into your socks and taped up to prevent ticks crawling into clothing.
- Walk in the centre of trails and paths so that you clothes do not brush against grass, weeds and foliage in which the ticks may be present.
- Check your clothes for the presence of ticks every three to four hours – even though ticks cannot transmit the Lyme Disease bacteria until it has attached itself to your skin.
- Remove any tick you discover using tweezers or a piece of tissue which forms a barrier between you and the tick. Should the head remain in your skin once you have removed the body, the tick can no longer transmit the Lyme Disease, but you should still see a doctor.
- Wash the area from where the tick has been removed with soap and apply an antiseptic. Do not forget to wash your hands as well.
These measures should be implemented by an employer not just when there is knowledge of a Lyme Disease infection in the area, but in any situation where there may be a risk of infection from a tick bite. If your employer fails to protect you from the risk of injury, and you contract a Lyme Disease injury as a result, you are entitled to claim for Lyme Disease at work compensation.
Making a Claim for Lyme Disease at Work Compensation
Once you have been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, the first thing you should do is report the injury to your employer and make a report in his “Accident Report Book”. Your employer is legally obliged to report your Lyme Disease injury to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), who may initiate their own investigation into your Lyme Disease injury.
You should then discuss your Lyme Disease injury with a solicitor to establish that you have a claim for Lyme Disease at work compensation which is worth your while to pursue. This will largely depend on whether your employer´s negligence was responsible for you sustaining a Lyme Disease at work injury and if you in any way contributed to the cause or severity of your injury yourself.
You should not delay in speaking with a solicitor about making a claim for Lyme Disease at work compensation, for although the result of the HSE investigation may add considerable strength to your claim, should your employer acknowledge his liability for your illness immediately, you may be approached by his Employer´s Liability insurance company with an offer of early settlement for your Lyme Disease at work claim.
Offers of Compensation for Lyme Disease at Work
Insurance companies frequently approach victims of serious injury directly with offers of compensation in return for an early settlement of a claim, and inasmuch as this may be welcome at a time when you are looking at an uncertain financial future, an offer from an insurance company is often made in haste and with no consideration of the long term consequences of your illness.
As a Lyme Disease injury at work can result in serious health effects and many years without being able to earn an income, you should always refer an approach by an insurance company to your solicitor. The insurance company´s approach is effectively an admission of liability by their client and, if short-term finances are a concern, your solicitor can apply for interim payments of Lyme Disease at work compensation until such time as a full assessment has been completed and how much compensation for Lyme Disease at work you are entitled to is agreed between the parties.
How Much Compensation for Lyme Disease at Work?
How much Lyme Disease at work compensation you will be entitled to will depend on the extent of your illness and the consequences it has had on your quality of life. A solicitor will compile a Lyme Disease at work claim based on your doctor´s prognosis of your Lyme Disease injury in relation to your age and general state of health before you were bitten by an infected tick.
If your Lyme Disease at work injury prevents you from living independently and performing day-to-day tasks without assistance, your solicitor will incorporate this into your claim for Lyme Disease at work compensation along with any deterioration in your quality of life due to not being able to participate in the social and leisure pursuits you would have enjoyed had it not been for your illness.
This “loss of amenity” will also extend to the fact that you may not be able to enjoy sexual relations with your partner for a period of time or may suffer from other emotional strains on your relationship due to the behavioural symptoms of Lyme Disease. Any quantifiable psychological injury you sustain which can be attributed to the Lyme Disease injury may also be integrated into your claim.
Your solicitor will also use your claim for Lyme Disease at work to recover any financial costs you have incurred and to compensate you for your loss of earnings due to your injury. Your financial situation at the conclusion of your Lyme Disease at work claim should be that you are no worse off than if your Lyme Disease injury had never occurred and have financial security for the future.
How Contributory Negligence Affects Compensation for Lyme Disease at Work?
Contributory negligence is a term which relates to any event where you may have contributed to the cause or extent of your injury. If, for example, you were warned about the risk of injury from Lyme Disease and provided with tick repellents but you used them ineffectively because you were not sure about their application, you may be considered to have contributed to your injury through your own lack of care because you should have asked.
You will not be disqualified from making a Lyme Disease at work claim for compensation, because your knowledge of health and safety procedures should have been monitored; however how much compensation for Lyme Disease at work you will be entitled to receive may be reduced.
Similarly, if you were aware that you had been bitten by a potentially infected tick, but failed to seek professional medical attention until the symptoms developed into a more serious condition, you will have contributed to the extent of your Lyme Disease injury and, again, it could affect how much compensation for Lyme Disease at work you receive.
Lyme Disease at Work Summary
The risks associated with a bite from a tick infected with Lyme Disease cannot be understated. When caught at an early stage, Lyme Disease can be quickly treated with antibiotics and you could recover relatively quickly. For those less fortunate, or who delay seeking medical treatment, the symptoms of Lyme Disease can remain for years and potentially be transmitted to those you love.
When Lyme Disease is contracted due to the negligence of an employer, you have the right to claim compensation for Lyme Disease at work but, with the risk of being under-compensated by an insurance company or having claims of contributory negligence made against you, a claim for Lyme Disease at work compensation is best handled with the assistance of an experienced personal injury solicitor.
All articles are written or edited by Eoin Campbell.