Asbestos compensation in cases where cause is not obvious
Exposure to asbestos can have devastating effects. Exposure to just a few fibres can cause mesotheliomia, a cancer of the lining around the lungs. Asbestos was a popular building material until the dangers caused by it were properly understood. Whilst it was still being used as a building material, many workmen, fitters, electricians etc were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres. However, asbestos has also affected workers in professions that you might not expect.
In 1995, a plastic surgeon from Sheffield died from mesothelioma. He had been exposed to asbestos whilst working as a junior doctor in London in the 1970s. Asbestos was used to line pipes in an underground corridor that ran between the main building of the hospital and the medical school. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1994 and died just one year later, aged 47 and leaving three children. The health authority admitted liability in 1998 and the doctor’s family were awarded £1.15 million in asbestos compensation.
In another case, a 66 year old retired teacher died from mesothelioma. She believed she had been exposed to asbestos during her 24 years of teaching. All asbestos was removed from the school where she had worked in 1992 but because asbestos-related diseases can take 20 years or more to demonstrate symptoms, it was too late to prevent another tragedy caused by asbestos.
Because of the length of time it takes for asbestos-related symptoms to develop, it can be difficult to determine negligence for an asbestos compensation claim, particularly if the cause is not immediately apparent. This may be the case if you have not worked in one of the more common occupations for asbestos exposure. There are government schemes to provide asbestos compensation to those who are unable to make private claims. If it is not possible to determine negligence in a case or if both your employer and their insurer no longer exist or are untraceable, it may be possible to claim compensation under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers Compensation Act) 1979. This scheme provides compensation to people suffering from a number of different asbestos-related diseases.
However, the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation Act) 1979 provides compensation for those who have been exposed to asbestos dust at work. If you have been exposed to asbestos in a non-work environment or at home and have developed mesothelioma as a result, it may be possible to claim compensation under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme. The scheme is for those who are unable to receive asbestos compensation from any other source (such as through a claim directly to the employer). A one-off payment is awarded that is dependent on the age at diagnosis, for example, if mesothelioma is diagnosed aged 37 or younger, the payment is £77,506. There are different rates for the families of people who have died as a result of the disease.
TUC figures indicate that only half of the approx 2,000 people who die every year as a result of mesothelioma received benefits from the DWP, and less than 100 people each year who suffer from asbestos-related lung cancer get any help. This leaves a massive gap in the number of people supported financially whilst they battle these diseases.
Asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer can have devastating effects, not only for the sufferer but for their families and friends. For mesothelioma, the length of time between diagnosis and death is often very short. This may not leave enough time for families to fully prepare for the death of their loved one, let alone think about and prepare a claim for compensation. If you are considering submitting a claim for compensation, speak to a solicitor. The length of time a case will take to be concluded will vary and depends on a number of different factors. Your solicitor should be able to give you an estimate about how long it will take. Compensation can be awarded even after the death of a loved one. It may also be possible to obtain an interim payment to cover the costs of care, whilst an overall compensation award is being considered.
The amount of compensation awarded will vary from case to case. This will depend on factors like pain, suffering and disability, financial losses and any costs or expenses as a result of the care of the sick person.
Any claim is likely to be made against an employer’s insurers. Even if the company you worked for no longer exists, the insurance company may still be in business and it will be possible to make a claim.
Claiming asbestos compensation can seem overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to have an expert solicitor on your side who knows the laws regarding asbestos exposure inside-out and can fight your case whilst you focus on more important things. Speak to Macks Solicitors today – our experts can discuss your case with you, without obligation.