Asbestos is a hazardous mineral that is feared amongst many. It was a popular manufacturing material introduced during the industrial revolution used to insulate pipework, vessels, brake linings, insulation board, rope, string and even cloth. Asbestos was particularly prolific during the 20th century when many of the buildings here in the UK were built during the post-war rejuvenation effort. In the 1920s, a connection between asbestos exposure and respiratory diseases was identified, but it wasn’t until 1999 that it was entirely banned. This means that many of the buildings we live, work and learn in still contain the hazardous substance, causing very serious and even life-threatening health conditions for those exposed.
If you do develop an asbestos-related illness, you should always make a claim for compensation. However, the process through which you can claim asbestos compensation is a complex one due to the historical nature of asbestos use and the slow development of the related illnesses. At Catherine Higgins Law, we regularly handle asbestos claims and have many success stories to show for it. Our step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to know about asbestos claims and hopefully give you the confidence to make a claim, whatever your circumstances are.
Diagnosis of asbestos-related illnesses
The first and most important stage of making an asbestos claim is being diagnosed with a related illness. For evidence that stands up in court, you must be diagnosed by a medical professional who is a reputed respiratory disease expert. Equally, if you are claiming on behalf of a family member who has sadly passed away from an asbestos-related illness, you will need to show that their untimely passing was a direct result of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a fibrous material which, when disturbed, releases fibres into the environment and then becomes embedded in the lungs. This can cause a number of dangerous diseases, including:
● Pleural thickening and pleural plaque: The pleura is the tissue around the lungs and diaphragm, and when this tissue thickens and hardens, it’s known as pleural plaque. This often has no symptoms but eventually leads to compression of the lung.
● Asbestosis: Scarring of the lung tissue, leading to a greater risk of lung cancer.
● Mesothelioma: This is cancer of the pleura.
● Asbestos-related lung cancer: This is when cancer forms in the lung tissue, usually in the cells lining the air passages.
Unfortunately, because of the nature of asbestos-related illnesses, they often take years to develop. In fact, they can take between 10 and 40 years or more to start to reveal symptoms, by which time the asbestos will have been in the system for a very long time. This is precisely why asbestos claims are some of the most complex personal injury law cases to handle.
Identifying the responsible party
Once you have your diagnosis, the next step is to think about when and in what circumstances you may have been exposed to asbestos. Before going to your solicitors you should make a list of any companies you’ve worked for with dates to the best of your memory. You should also identify the jobs which may have resulted in asbestos exposure and detail any witnesses who will be able to confirm the presence of asbestos, such as a colleague or family member.
As we described earlier on, asbestos has been a prominent manufacturing material in Britain for over 250 years, so there are many industries in which occupational asbestos exposure is a major risk. Most commonly, asbestos-related illness sufferers have worked or are still working in the following industries:
● Construction. For obvious reasons, anyone carrying out repair work, renovating or demolishing buildings which contain asbestos is at risk.
● Education. Asbestos exposure in schools is a serious problem because many were built between 1950 and 1980. Both staff and pupils are potentially at risk.
● Industrial. Workers in factories or other industrial sites can be exposed to asbestos in paper, textiles, gaskets, insulation and fireproofing.
● Maritime. Shipyard workers and Navy veterans often file asbestos claims as many vessels were insulated with asbestos throughout the 20th century.
● Maintenance. Just like construction workers, tradespeople can be exposed to asbestos when carrying out repair work, including plumbers and electricians.
● Fire service. Firefighters are at risk as fire damage to asbestos products and buildings can cause the hazardous fibres to become airborne.
It is all well and good knowing the job where you suspect asbestos exposure occurred, but what do you do if the company has stopped trading? Similarly, what if you’ve worked for a number of companies where you think asbestos was present, but you can’t pinpoint it to one particular employer or date? What about those people who live near sites with asbestos or family members who live with people who’ve worked with asbestos? Identifying the responsible party can be extremely difficult, which is exactly why you should enlist the assistance of legal experts who can navigate any form of asbestos case.
Working with an expert solicitor
Although asbestos claims are a complicated claims process, a successful case is not impossible. Not only may you be entitled to compensation, but you could also receive state benefits, a lump sum or an award from trust funds as a result of a successful claim. Working with experts in asbestos claims like ourselves can help to secure this result.
Firstly, your chosen legal experts will try to identify the responsible party using the evidence you’ve prepared. Even if the company has stopped trading, the relevant insurance company will still be liable so your solicitor will identify them, too. There are also provisions in place for cases where the claimant worked at multiple sites where asbestos was present.
Your solicitor will support you in gathering evidence from family members, previous colleagues, contractors and clients from your time at the company and put together relevant medical records. Once they’ve collated all of the medical, engineering and epidemiological evidence, the case can be put forward, describing when, how and why the claimant was exposed to asbestos and what compensation they deserve. In the very unfortunate circumstance that a person passes away during their asbestos claims process, a legal expert will always remain professional and considerate; they’ll help a family member to resubmit the claim against the employer for wrongful death.
If you’re making an asbestos claim on behalf of another person, it can be even more complicated again as accurate evidence can be more difficult to obtain. However, asbestos claim experts are there to help and have no doubt handled all sorts of asbestos cases with positive results, no matter the circumstance.
Making a successful claim
Asbestos claims are a nuanced process and, of course, every case is different. However, there are a few things which should help to achieve a successful claim:
● Your claim must be filed within three years of diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness. Or, if you’re acting on behalf of the deceased, the claim should be made three years after death or after discovering asbestos was the cause of death, for example in the coroner’s report.
● If you can prove that there is a high chance your illness is a result of exposure at work or due to secondary exposure from someone who worked with asbestos, for example, handling their work clothes. You can also make a claim if you live or have lived in close proximity to a factory or workplace with asbestos.
● If you can prove that the exposure was due to an employer’s negligence. From the 1990s onwards, employers were made aware of asbestos risks so if they don’t make their workers aware, put precautionary measures in place or provide protective gear, they will be found to have been negligent. They should also make local residents aware of asbestos risks, too.
● Despite this, many asbestos cases are proven “on the balance of probabilities”; even if there’s no hard evidence, if the asbestos illness is “more likely than not” a result of a working environment, then compensation will be given.
Catherine Higgins Law: Expert legal support for asbestos claims, conveyancing, wills and probate and much more
If you’re looking into making an asbestos claim but you believe your situation is unique or too complicated and therefore won’t be successful, you’re most probably wrong. To read just a few of our asbestos claim success stories, go to our testimonials page.
At Catherine Higgins Law, we have dealt with many different asbestos cases. Whether the claimant was suffering themselves or the claimant acted on behalf of a family member, our clients have always been satisfied. If you’re still unsure, why not get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to talk through your claim and reassure you that every claim is worth making.
Along with our expert asbestos claims team, we also offer home conveyancing legal advice, wills and probate support, accidents at work and road traffic accident support. At Catherine Higgins Law we will be here for you through every step of your claim, offering considerate support and ultimately getting you as much compensation as possible, as quickly as we can.