In principle the purpose of compensation for injury or illness is to try and put the injured party in the same position as he would have been in if he had not been injured. We recognise that in reality no amount of money can make up for the pain and hardship caused by a serious asbestos related illness. However, compensation can bring some comfort and security to sufferers of asbestos related illnesses, as well as to their loved ones and dependents.
The purpose of this article is to give an outline of how asbestos claims are valued.
Broadly, claims for asbestos compensation are split into two parts – namely compensation for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the illness itself – “general damages” and compensation for the financial loss incurred as a result of the illness “special damages”. Both of these types of asbestos compensation are considered below.
To value any claim for the pain and suffering caused by an asbestos related illness we consider the illness itself, the level of symptoms or disability it is responsible for and the extent to which those symptoms are likely to worsen.
We look at similar cases which have gone before the courts and consider the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines which judges refer to when valuing claims for general damages. These guidelines provide for the following amounts.
- Mesothelioma – £35,000 to £83,750
- Asbestos related lung cancer - £51,500 to £66,000
- Asbestosis – £31,500 to £69,500.
- Pleural thickening – £25,250 to £51,500
Compensation for financial loss arising out of an asbestos compensation claim depends upon the circumstances of the individual concerned. A claim for financial losses often includes the following: -
Loss of earnings/pension/other benefits. We look at your financial circumstances before you became ill. We consider what your sources of income were in terms of wages, pension and other benefits. We consider carefully how the progression of your illness is likely to financially affect you and your loved ones now and in the future.
Private medical treatment. We look at whether you are likely to benefit from any supplements to your existing treatment and for example whether any adaptations to your living arrangements are likely to make life more comfortable for you.
Claim for care. The cost of a carer on a private basis can be recoverable. It is also recognized that very often the burden of care and assistance falls on members of the family. Even though family members do not charge for the work they provide, the work is recognized as having a value and an award to reflect this will form part of many claims.
Claim for services If before his illness, a sufferer was responsible for household maintenance, gardening and DIY and his illness renders him unable to do this any longer, a claim for past and future services costs is often recoverable.
In those cases where an asbestos illness is fatal, funeral costs are claimed and a surviving spouse is entitled to a statutory payment for bereavement , currently £11,800.
FULL AND FINAL OR PROVISIONAL SETTLEMENT?
In all cases an independent medical expert will comment on whether a sufferer’s asbestos related condition will worsen in severity and on the chances of the sufferer developing any other asbestos related condition. It is possible to seek to settle your claim on a “provisional” basis enabling you to have the value of your claim reassessed at a later date in the event that you develop a further asbestos related illness or a significant worsening in your current condition. The alternative is to settle on a “full and final basis” in which case the compensation amount is higher than that recoverable on a provisional basis but under such circumstances you are not able to later comeback and obtain additional compensation for further asbestos related illnesses.
The decision to settle on a full and final or provisional basis needs to be carefully considered in all cases. We will offer you full guidance on this as with all other aspects of your claim.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma, and can identity that you were exposed to asbestos at work, you may be entitled to compensation. If you are not able to establish when you were exposed to asbestos or if the company you worked for and their insurer are both untraceable, you may be able to claim under a government scheme.
If you have developed mesothelioma in a non-work environment, there is another government scheme that you may be able to make a claim through. Speak to a solicitor with expertise in this area and they will be able to guide you through the different laws and avenues for making a claim.
Two families have won compensation after a family member died following cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, considered to be at a ‘low level.’ The claims were made against a local council who argued that the claims would need to prove that exposure had at least ‘doubled the risk’ of developing mesothelioma. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the families were entitled to compensation and that whether the level of asbestos was too low to be considered was a decision to be made by judges according to the circumstances of individual cases. It is hoped that this decision will help many other families to claim the compensation they are entitled to.