A significant period can often elapse between exposure to asbestos and development of an asbestos related disease. For most people, symptoms do not begin to occur until around 20 years after exposure and often victims will no longer be employed by the negligent employer.
This leads many to believe they cannot bring a claim against their former employers as it happened a long time ago. This is a common misconception; victims of asbestos can make a claim for compensation if they have been diagnosed in the last three years.
Therefore, while exposure to asbestos is no longer common in the workplace, those who have been exposed up to 50 years ago can still make a claim for compensation. Occupations where workers may have been exposed include builders, plumbers, electricians, Insulators, roofers and construction workers.
There is also a further risk of second-hand asbestos exposure. This would occur when asbestos fibres attach to a worker’s clothes and were later handled by a partner or loved one. Damages were recently awarded in Scotland to a mother who had contracted mesothelioma when coming into contact with asbestos from her husbands’ overalls. Asbestos related diseases include but are not limited to:
• Mesothelioma – This is a form of cancer that can be diagnosed between 20 to 50 years after being exposed to asbestos.
• Lung cancer – this is caused through inhaling harmful asbestos fibres and again can be diagnosed a long time after exposure.
• Asbestosis – This is another form of lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibres. It develops long after exposure and is virtually incurable.
• Pleural Plaques – This is caused as a result of inhaling asbestos fibres and effectively it causes scarring to the lungs and typically arises 20-30 years after exposure.
How We Can Help
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease you should seek legal advice promptly as you are limited to three years following your diagnosis for making a claim for compensation. The claims process can vary but will generally take the following approach:
1. Free Initial Consultation – When you make an appointment with one of our experienced personal injury solicitors, they will firstly take instructions on when you were exposed to asbestos and, importantly, when you were diagnosed with an asbestos related disease. This information will dictate the success of your claim. It is, therefore, important to ensure you provide all relevant information to your solicitor.
2. Pre-Action Letter– Once the negligent employer is identified your solicitor will send a letter to the company you worked for setting out detailed allegations of negligence and breach of statutory duty. They will then be obligated to pass this on to their insurance company.
3. Site inspection and other evidence -Your solicitor may appoint an expert to inspect the site where the alleged exposure to asbestos took place with a view to firmly establishing that asbestos was or is present in the
4. Medical Evidence – We will then obtain your GP and hospital notes and arrange an appointment with a specialist medical Consultant who will provide a report on the likely cause of your illness. The report is required to get an expert opinion on whether the claimant’s illness is linked to exposure to asbestos in the workplace.
5. Decision on Liability – The employer’s insurance company then must provide their decision on liability within a defined period of time. If liability is admitted, your solicitor will enter in to settlement negotiations with the insurance company with a view to recovering damages for the pain and loss you have suffered.
6. Court Proceedings – If liability is denied your solicitor will consult with you and discuss issuing Court proceedings to try and recover damages. When Court proceedings are issued your solicitor will instruct a specialist barrister to help prepare your case for Hearing. Court proceedings can also be issued in a case where liability has been admitted if we feel the compensation being offered by the insurance company is not sufficient. Our expert solicitors will advise clients on their options, but the final decision will always be made by the client and we will ensure that their wishes are carried out.
The time that elapses between the time of exposure to asbestos and the time of diagnosis makes claims of this nature quite different from ordinary personal injury claims. To help you understand the process we have devised a hypothetical scenario to demonstrate how an asbestos claim is generally handled;
Paul is a 66-year-old retired plumber. He was diagnosed with Mesothelioma two months ago and after his doctor asked him about exposure to asbestos, he realised that the illness may be linked to his former occupation. Paul worked for a plumbing company in Belfast for 7 years in the 1980s. He informed his doctor who confirmed that the illness was related to this work.
Paul approached PA Duffy and Company and arranged an appointment with a specialist industrial illness solicitor. They then sent a pre action letter to his former employer and arranged for Paul to be examined by a Consultant Oncologist who reported that Paul’s illness was inextricably linked to his employment in the 1980s. This report was conclusive and was therefore sent to the employer’s insurance company who accepted liability and entered into settlement negotiations.