Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a silicate mineral, which, due to its advantageous properties such as tensile strength and resistance to fire and heat, was used as a building material in the UK, chiefly in shipyards and as insulation in factories, schools, hospitals and homes. It occurs naturally in 6 different types, all of which are carcinogenic to humans.
- Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos contains microscopic fibres which, when disturbed, enter the air and can be easily inhaled by anybody in the nearby vicinity. The durable nature of these fibres means they don't break down within the human body, instead becoming attached to the lining of the lungs, along with other areas of the respiratory system, where they become lodged and almost impossible to expel. It is these fibres that cause healthy cells to mutate and turn cancerous.
- Is Asbestos Banned in the UK?
Yes. From the mid-1980s onwards, rules and regulations have been brought in to prohibit the use and importation of the two main types of asbestos – crocidolite (blue) and amosite (brown) - and control the use of a third – chrysotile (white). In 1999 the import and application of chrysotile was also banned and strict rules for working with existing asbestos installations have continued to be updated since, resulting in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
- What Diseases are Associated with Asbestos?
There are 4 main associated illnesses, these are:
- Mesothelioma – This asbestos-induced cancer is responsible for the highest number of proven related deaths. Mesothelioma attacks the lining of the lungs, as well as the lower digestive tract, and has a gestation (latency) period of anything from 20 to 50 years. Once diagnosed it is almost always terminal.
- Asbestos-related lung cancer – The fact it is identical to the more common form of lung cancer makes it difficult to ascertain a cause, but it is estimated that asbestos-related lung cancer kills the same number of people annually as mesothelioma.
- Asbestosis – Like mesothelioma, asbestosis has a long latency period, with similar symptoms emerging many years after initial exposure. Unlike mesothelioma, it is not a cancer. Asbestosis results in a scarring of the lungs which leads to gradual shortness of breath but isn't necessarily fatal. Even so, according to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics it was the exclusive cause of 477 deaths in 2013.
- Pleural thickening – Pleura is the name given to the lining of the lungs, which, in the case of pleural thickening, becomes inflamed, swelling and squeezing the lungs, leading to breathlessness and chest pains. It is not fatal in itself, but is common among people exposed to asbestos, who might be susceptible to another, more serious condition.
- Can I Claim for an Asbestos-related Disease?
If you were exposed to asbestos as part of your job and are suffering with one of the aforementioned conditions, you can make a claim for compensation.
- How Long Do I Have to Make a Claim?
There is a 3 year limit on making a personal injury claim. In asbestos claims, this applies from when you are first diagnosed with a related condition, as opposed to when you were first exposed to asbestos.
- What Medical Information Do You Need to Make a Claim?
You don’t personally need to provide us with any specific medical information in the first instance. If you’ve been to hospital, it’s very likely that you’ll have recently had an X-ray, scan, or possibly a biopsy.
Our specialist asbestos Solicitors will always seek to get this information from your GP or from the hospital you’ve been treated at as a matter of urgency.
Your Solicitor will work to obtain a medical diagnosis letter, and this will be useful when making your claim.
- What If a Family Member has Died from an Asbestos Disease?
In the sad event that a loved one has died and it is revealed that this is due to asbestos exposure, the 3 year deadline starts from the date of their death, provided when they died this was within their 3 year limitation period from diagnosis. Always seek legal advice as soon as you have been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness as the rules on limitation can be complex.
- Can I Get Legal Aid for an Asbestos Claim?
Unfortunately there is no Legal Aid available in asbestos claim cases. However, at Simpson Millar we deal with many asbestos claims on a No Win, No Fee basis.
- What is the Claims Process?
In asbestos cases, you generally have three years from the date of diagnosis to make a claim.
You should get in touch with us as soon as you become aware of your condition. Alternatively, a person’s estate should make a claim three years from the date of the deceased’s death.
The asbestos claims process will look like this:
- Initial legal advice
- Writing a letter to the defendant(s)
- Obtaining medical records
- Obtaining works records/DWP records
- Arranging medical examination and obtaining report
- Defendant conducting their own investigations
- Investigation period (up to three months)
- Obtaining evidence for financial losses
- Commencing Court proceedings if necessary
The unique nature of each asbestos claim means we can’t say exactly how long it will take to resolve.
Sometimes it takes up to three years from diagnosis for a settlement to be achieved, but one recent case we dealt with was resolved in just ten weeks. Don’t worry though. We’ll let you know straight away roughly how long your claim may take.
- How Long Does an Asbestos Claim Take?
It depends upon the complexity of the individual case, but on average a mesothelioma claim can last anywhere between 3 and 6 months. Lung cancer and asbestosis claims generally require a great deal more evidence to make a successful claim so it can take more time to reach a settlement. This could be as long as 3 years from the initial diagnosis.
- What Support Can I Expect Throughout the Claims Process?
We’ll offer many kinds of support throughout the claims process, including:
- Guidance on applying for state benefits and lump sum payments from the government
- Advice and help on aids for the home and nursing care
- Helping you find local support groups and asbestos charities
- Assistance with cost of travel to hospital appointments
- Advice and assistance on making a Will, taking out a grant of Probate and Trusts
- Home visits
- Assistance to the family in dealing with coroners and inquests following death of a loved one
We may be able to deal with your case on a No Win, No Fee basis, so ask us for details on this option.
- How Long Does an Asbestos Claim Take?
It depends how complex the case is, but on average, a Mesothelioma claim takes about 9 months. Lung cancer and asbestosis generally require a great deal more evidence to pursue a successful claim and it can therefore take more time to reach a settlement.
This could be as long as three years from the initial diagnosis.
- What If the Employer Responsible No Longer Exists?
Since 1972 it has been required by law for companies to take out Employers' Liability Insurance, ensuring they are covered for any illness or injury that befalls an employee as a result of the work they do. If the employer has ceased trading, the insurer is then responsible for any settlement. It is the duty of a good law firm to use their experience, knowledge and the resources at their disposal to track down insurance firms and ensure they pay.
If the employer didn't have any insurance (pre-1972 it wasn't compulsory), the Government's Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) is available, with a tariff compensation system based on your age and when you were diagnosed.
- Are There other Government Payments?
Whether or not you have made a civil claim, there is a Government Lump Sum payment available to all victims of mesothelioma. Most asbestos specialist Solicitors will sort this automatic entitlement out almost immediately, as these funds can be made available within a few weeks of diagnosis. If you have not made a civil claim or contacted a Solicitor, it is still possible to claim this Government Lump Sum payment for mesothelioma and, where possible, it should always be claimed during lifetime. If, however, the victim has died then the spouse or child of the deceased should apply for this payment within 12 months of the victim's death.
This is unique in that it is the only automatic payout for a disease offered by the Government and everyone with a diagnosis of mesothelioma is entitled to an award, whether or not the sufferer had any past exposure to asbestos. As with the DMPS, awards are banded by age and time of diagnosis. Sufferers of other asbestos-related diseases may also be able to claim a lump sum payment, dependent upon the level of exposure and their respiratory impairment.
There are many other state benefits available for people who have been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness and you should always seek legal advice to ensure that you are claiming for these. They can include PIP payments for people under state retirement age, Attendance Allowance, Industrial Injuries Disablement Pension (IIDB), Blue Badge for people who are suffering with breathlessness.
- How Much is an Asbestos Claim Worth?
Individual circumstances, including age, life expectancy and the severity of your illness, will play a role in the level of the award given. It also depends upon which asbestos related illness you have been diagnosed with; pleural plaques with symptoms, pleural thickening (there are many different respiratory disability percentages), asbestos lung cancer (this can be any type of lung cancer), asbestosis or mesothelioma. Asbestos compensation settlements can start at anywhere around £2,500 for pleural plaques with minor symptoms, rising to £50,000 and in some cases in excess of £1million in cases where there is a high income at time of diagnosis or the sufferer is a full time carer to a disabled spouse/partner, or has dependent children. Our Personal Injury Solicitors can advise you on what your claim is worth.
- What Should I Do Next?
What Should I Do Next? If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, your first step is to seek independent legal advice.
For a free consultation call our Personal Injury Solicitors on 08002605010 or contact us online and we will help you.
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