Chief assessor appointed for new occupational injury accreditation

Written by staff reporter

BLM partner and occupational disease specialist Michelle Penn has been appointed chief assessor for a new Occupational Injury accreditation being implemented by the Law Society of England and Wales.

Penn, who has specialised in occupational disease claims for over 20 years, put forward a formal proposal to the Law Society to introduce a stand-alone accreditation for disease specialists.

Currently, accreditations are awarded for various specialisms including children law, conveyancing, criminal litigation, personal injury, clinical negligence and family law, amongst others. The Law Society has now recognised the need to introduce a disease accreditation called Occupational Injury.

“Disease cases are handled differently compared to other personal injury cases, due to the complex nature of the claims. Disease claims such as noise-induced hearing loss, hand arm vibration syndrome, asbestos-related conditions, stress, asthma, dermatitis, work-related neck and upper limb disorders are all examples of the types of disease claims that give rise to their own specific challenges made even more challenging as a result of LASPO (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012),” Penn explained.

“Access to justice is important but we question whether there can be real justice if a claimant finds representation from a non-specialist lawyer. It is crucial that claimants who wish to pursue a disease claim are represented by specialists. I am pleased that the Law Society has recognised this and decided to implement the Occupational Injury accreditation.”

David Marshall, chair of the Civil Justice Committee at the Law Society, said: “Michelle has made an invaluable contribution to the shaping of our accreditation. We are extremely grateful for her expert guidance in relation to disease matters and for assuming the role of chief assessor for the scheme.”

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