Asbestos: 6 key facts when considering making an industrial disease claim

 

Laura WilliamsonMaking a claim for compensation isn’t anyone’s first priority after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or asbestosis. However, being unable to work due to breathing difficulties, chest pains or the side effects of treatment can lead to financial hardship. It is therefore important that sufferers and their relatives know what they are entitled to.

Anyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestosis has been exposed to asbestos at some time in their life, usually many years before they are diagnosed. If this occurred whilst at work, it may be possible to claim damages from ex-employers. Some people have even contracted asbestos from coming into contact with a family member’s dusty overalls, and gone on to successfully sue the negligent firm. You can also make a claim on behalf of a family member after they have died if they didn’t pursue legal action during their lifetime. Here are six key facts that you need to know when considering a claim for asbestos exposure;

1. Even if the firm that you or your relative worked for is no longer in business, you could still have a successful claim, because we are often able to trace their insurer. If located, we can claim directly against their insurance company, even if the firm itself went out of business many years ago.

2. Some people worked with asbestos in a lot of different jobs and worry about how they can prove which one was to blame. Due to the way that the law has developed in this area, in mesothelioma cases, a firm that has exposed their employee to asbestos without sufficient protection must settle the whole claim, even when another employer may also be to blame. The law is slightly different for sufferers of asbestosis, with each employer only liable for a proportion of the claim, depending on how long the employee worked for them. There is still, however, no need to prove where and when the disease first started.

3. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer and were exposed to asbestos, you could still have a claim. While you may not be signposted by your doctors to a solicitor as patients usually are when diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is still worth investigating if you can remember working with, or coming into contact with asbestos. Even if you also smoked, it is often possible to claim some damages, as asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

4. Even if you don’t make a claim, anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or asbestos related lung cancer caused by their job can apply for a benefit known as the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. To apply, you need to complete a form that can be found on the gov.uk website. If you instruct us to deal with your claim, we can assist you in finding out what benefits you are entitled to.

5. If all avenues have been exhausted and your ex-employer and their insurer cannot be found, you may be entitled to a lump sum payment from the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme. As the name suggests, this only applies to mesothelioma sufferers, but a claim can be made under this scheme even if the asbestos exposure wasn’t at work – such as if you lived near an asbestos factory, or if you don’t know where the exposure took place – as long as it occurred in the UK.

6. The dangers of asbestos have been known about since at least 1918. In 1930, Dr Merewether, a well known researcher, published findings which linked asbestos exposure to lung disease. As a result he recommended that in factories, asbestos dust should be controlled by the use of respirators and adequate ventilation. Industry regulations were introduced soon after. This means that it is difficult for a company to defend a claim on the basis that it did not to know about any dangers or precautions.

If you’d like to know more or would like to discuss a potential industrial disease claim please contact us.

Laura Williamson is a legal executive in the medical negligence team at Enable Law. She can be contacted at laura.williamson@enablelaw.com