This fibre could often be found in homes, schools, workplaces, hospitals, and various public buildings constructed around that time and before. However, its widespread usage was halted when it was linked to cancer and other respiratory problems.
Even though asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, its effects on health can still be felt today. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), asbestos is the biggest cause of death in the workplace. In fact, recent data released by the HSE reveals that asbestos causes or contributes to around 5,000 deaths per year in the UK.
It is widely known that asbestos-related diseases typically develop over a long year period (10-50 years) and this is one major reason why seeking compensation for it can be complex. If you or a loved one are currently suffering from an asbestos-related disease, read on to discover why asbestos makes people ill and the steps you should take to claim compensation.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a term for a group of minerals composed of fine fibres that are resistant to fire, heat, and a wide variety of chemicals. When these fibres get into the air and are inhaled by humans, they become almost permanently lodged in the body’s respiratory system.
Due to their inability to break down, the healthy cells in the body attack these foreign agents and begin to mutate. The lungs can become damaged over time and exposure to asbestos can lead to a number of serious and life-threatening diseases.
What Types Of Diseases Can Develop From Asbestos Exposure?
There are five main types of asbestos-related diseases, as follows:
This is a type of cancer that attacks the lower digestive system and the lining of the lungs. It almost exclusively develops due to the prolonged exposure and inhalation of asbestos dust.
Mesothelioma can take as many as 20–50 years to become fully noticeable. Therefore, because of the way it progresses, it is often the case that by the time it is investigated and diagnosed, the tumours have already spread and may be untreatable. Sadly, mesothelioma is responsible for the highest number of asbestos-related deaths in the UK and accounts for roughly half of the 5000 people that die annually due to asbestos exposure.
2 Asbestos Lung Cancer
This is a serious disease that can also occur due to heavy exposure to asbestos. Deaths from asbestos-related lung cancer closely follows the mortality rate from mesothelioma.
Fibrosis is caused by dust inhalation, which leads to lung damage. It is differentiated by the type of dust responsible for it, thus, in this case, fibrosis caused by asbestos dust is called asbestosis. It is a severe condition that could result in permanent respiratory problems if left untreated.
4 Diffuse Pleural Thickening
This occurs when fibres from asbestos penetrate the pleural (wall of the lungs) causing the chest wall to thicken. This thickening around the lungs affects its ability to contract and expand as usual, making breathing difficult.
5 Pleural Plaques:
When the asbestos fibres penetrate the pleural, it also scars the lining of the lungs causing shortness of breath. However, these scars are benign and not likely to lead to anything more serious. It can be easily discovered during an x-ray examination and is the least severe of the asbestos-related conditions.
What are the symptoms of exposure to asbestos?
The major symptoms that occur due to asbestos exposure include the following:
- Chest pain
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath or trouble with breathing
- Tightness in the chest
It is important to state here that the symptoms associated with asbestos exposure do not start immediately. They may only become noticeable 10–30 years after the initial exposure to the pollutant.
Can I Claim Compensation For Exposure To Asbestos?
Before filing for compensation on an asbestos claim, you must be certain that you have been in contact with the fibre. For people who directly worked in an asbestos-laden environment, this can be easily proven.
However, it is not so easy for others who might have been indirectly exposed to asbestos.
If you belong to the latter group, here is a list of those who are eligible to file for an asbestos claim.
- People who lived close to a workplace or factory that regularly used asbestos.
- People who live or lived with someone who worked in an asbestos-contaminated building. The asbestos dust that may have settled on the person’s hair, clothing or skin put others at risk of contamination.
- People working in professions such as the building and construction industry.
How Long Does An Asbestos Claim Take?
The duration of your claim will solely depend on the complexity of your case and if it can be successfully proven. Nevertheless, asbestosis and lung cancer claims could take as long as three years to be brought to a final conclusion.
Claims for mesothelioma, on the other hand, are usually settled between 3 – 18 months.
What Are The Steps That Can Help Me In Filing A Successful Claim?
Lack of preparation before filing a claim can be the difference between winning and having your case thrown out of court. Therefore, it is important that you take the following steps to help your case.
1) Get A Medical Report
To file a claim, it first has to be proven that you suffer from an illness linked to prior asbestos exposure. Your medical practitioner will examine you and document their findings, including the date you were diagnosed, the hospital you were treated at and your individual symptoms. It is this medical report that will be admitted in court.
2) Assemble Your Evidence
You will have to prove to the court that your illness was actually caused by asbestos exposure. Your evidence should include how you came into contact with asbestos and for how long.
3) Prove Your Employer’s Negligence
You must prove that your employer was aware of the risks associated with asbestos and declined to take any safety precautions, such as failing to provide you with protective gear or informing you about the dangers.
You need to show the courts that your employer failed to sound a warning, even though they could see that exposing you to asbestos could be detrimental to your health.
Fortunately, the risks associated with asbestos was made public in the 1990s, so it should not be too difficult to prove.
4) Seek Legal Advice
Asbestos compensation claims can be complicated and challenging. The inability to effectively prove your case in court can lead to your claim being unsuccessful. It is therefore helpful to seek expert legal advice in these matters and you can arrange to speak to a claims advisor for free here.
Types Of Compensation
If you have a valid case and make a successful claim, compensation is generally split into two categories, as follows:
1) General Damages
This category of compensation generally relates to the physical and psychological harm caused by the injury or illness. These include emotional distress, mental trauma, pain and suffering etc. When calculating general damages, there is a certain amount of discretion allowed and the medical report will be a crucial piece of evidence. The settlement will depend on the severity of the injury, the effect on quality of life and future prognosis.
2) Special Damages
This category of compensation deals with the financial expenses and losses incurred because of the injury, which aims to compensate the victim for the current and future costs. Unlike general damages, special damages does not allow for any discretion in its calculation. It includes the following:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of earnings
- Future loss of earnings
- Travel expenses
- Adaptation to home and car, if required
What Is The Average Asbestos Claims Settlement?
The asbestos claims amounts are shown here for example only and should not be interpreted as a guarantee of the amount you could receive. In most cases, solicitors will deduct their legal and handling fees from any compensation payment you may receive, but be sure to discuss their terms beforehand.
The compensation pay-out varies with each and every asbestos claim case, as every case is unique, which is why quoting a precise settlement figure in advance is not possible. However, we can suggest an estimate, based on previous settlements. Remember, if successful, your claim could result in a lower or much higher settlement figure, so speak to a claims advisor for more information.
For benign diseases with minor symptoms, such as pleural plaques, settlement may be in the region of £1000-10,000. However, in moderate cases of pleural thickening or asbestosis, compensation pay-outs may be somewhere between £10,000-50,000 depending on the severity. Compensation for the most serious asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma, reflect the serious disability and shortened life expectancy they cause and can range between £50,000 and £1million depending on the specific details.
What Factors Will Determine The Compensation Amount?
The compensation pay-out you will receive will depend on the following factors:
- Severity of illness
- Type of illness
- Level of suffering and pain
- Financial losses
- Life expectancy
- Disability it caused
Can I File A Claim If The Company Is Out Of Business?
Yes, you can still file for compensation even if the company responsible for the asbestos exposure has been closed down. The law makes it compulsory for companies to take out Employer’s Liability Insurance before they can begin operating.
This insurance is usually more than enough to pay for your compensation. To access it, your solicitor simply needs to file a claim against the insurance company that covered the company’s liability at the time you were exposed.
Can I File A Claim On Behalf Of A Close Family Member Who Has Died From Asbestos Exposure?
If it is revealed that your loved one died from asbestos exposure, then yes, you may be able to file for compensation providing it is within three years from the date of diagnosis in a post-mortem examination or coroner’s inquest.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Asbestos Claims?
The law stipulates that your compensation claim must be filed within three years, starting from the time you became aware of the problem. So, no matter how long it takes for you to be diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you can file your claim as soon as you receive your diagnosis.
Asbestos Claims: Last Words
Asbestos-related diseases can adversely affect the quality and longevity of one’s life. So, if you are a victim of this, you are well within your rights to seek compensation for your ordeal.
For one, your compensation claim shines the spotlight on the plights of other victims of asbestos exposure and may encourage them to also come forward and seek reparation for their suffering.
For another, the compensation you could receive may go someway to reducing your overall suffering, by providing some financial assistance and helping you to live your life as well as possible.