Asbestos Compensation Claims
Exposure to asbestosis – an insulating material widely used in the building industry in the 1950s-1980s – has killed thousands of people over the years.
Many unsuspecting building trade workers worked with this toxic material for decades, little suspecting that they were inhaling deadly asbestos fibres which years later would lead to a usually fatal disease.
Indeed, asbestos-related diseases are the UK’s biggest workplace killer – more than 50,000 in the UK to date, with more than 2000 people dying of this affliction every year, according to Health & Safety Executive figures.
- Asbestosis: Inhaling asbestos fibre can lead to asbestosis which, sometimes decades later, causes irritation, inflammation and scarring to the lungs and breathing passages. The lungs also shrink resulting in breathlessness.
- Mesothelioma: Impossible to cure, mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. More than 80 per cent of mesothelioma is caused by asbestos.
- Lung cancer: Many people who have worked with asbestos also eventually develop lung cancer.
If you want to claim compensation for an asbestos-related disease, it’s imperative that you consult a specialist personal injury lawyer before you start your case. Industrial disease cases can be complicated, especially since many sufferers are not sure how or where they contracted the disease, and a considerable time may have passed between exposure and symptoms appearing.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to guide you through the whole process, helping you to gather the evidence you need – such as medical reports and eye witness accounts – and negotiating you the financial settlement you deserve.
They will usually act for you on a no-win no-fee basis too, meaning you pay your solicitor nothing if you lose your case. If you win the case, you will pay them a pre-agreed percentage of your final compensation package (usually 25 per cent).
Time limits to starting an industrial disease claim
There is usually a three-year time limit for starting a personal injury compensation claim. With industrial diseases, however, this three-year period starts to run from the date the seriousness of your condition manifests itself, which could be years after you’ve left the job which caused your symptoms.
What evidence do I need to bring such a claim?
As in other employer-liability personal injury compensation claim, you will need to show that your employer was negligent if your case is to succeed. This means proving that:
- your employer owed you a duty of care (employers almost always do);
- that they breached this duty of care; and
- that you suffered harm as a result.
Your solicitor will arrange for you to be examined by a medical expert who will produce an official report to be used in evidence in your case, outlining the cause of your illness, the harm it has caused you and the affect it has had on your life.
It is also wise to keep records of all the money you have had to pay out as a result of your illness, and to write an account about the effect that illness has had on you and your day-to-day life.
Can I claim for someone else?
Sadly, industrial diseases can often prove fatal and you may want to bring a compensation claim if a loved one has died. You can do this is you are:
- the dependant of the deceased person;
- a family member of the deceased person;
- the estate of the deceased.
If a loved one has died, you can claim compensation for:
- bereavement – the pain and suffering you endured as a result of the death;
- dependency – if you relied on the deceased for some or all of your income;
- funeral expenses.
You can also claim on behalf of another adult if they are classed as a ‘protected person’ – ie, they have a mental impairment which renders them incapable of making their own decisions.
What can I do if the employer responsible for my illness has gone out of business?
All employers are required to take out employers’ liability insurance which covers them if someone brings a compensation claim. This cover endures even if they cease trading or go out of business, so you solicitor should be able to trace your former employer’s insurers and continue the claim on your behalf through them.
What happens if I’m unsure where I contracted my industrial disease?
If there is more than one potential cause of your asbestos-related disease – for example, if you were exposed to asbestos in more than one job – a medical expert will examine you and allocate liability among your former employers depending on what the evidence shows. This means that more than one employer may have to pay you compensation.
Such claims are usually brought using the Pre-Action Protocol for Disease and Illness Claims which sets standards that the parties to a claim should follow before formal court proceedings are issued.
These protocols aim to encourage:
- regular contact between the parties;
- early exchange of information;
- through investigation and disclosure by both sides;
- parties to settle their cases in a timely and just fashion without having to go to court;
- proceedings to run efficiently and to the court’s set timetable if litigation is needed.
What sort of compensation can I claim?
When the compensation package you will receive is being considered, the following factors will be taken into account:
- the extent and seriousness of your condition because of your employer’s negligence;
- the pain and suffering you have endured;
- the effect the industrial disease has had on your life;
- the circumstances surrounding your illness;
- changes to your life expectancy;
- the financial loss you suffered as a result of your illness;
- your future care and support needs.