A person diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, asbestosis or pleural thickening may be able to claim compensation for past exposure to asbestos with experienced Asbestos lawyers UK.
If you have been exposed to the deadly dust and fibres you are owed justice and financial peace of mind, so that you can meet your own needs now and prepare for your family’s future.
The National Asbestos Helpline is a free service provided by Birchall Blackburn Law, which has a team of specialist, experienced and dedicated asbestos lawyers. In order to support those people diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease with a full service – from benefits to compensation – the National Asbestos Helpline relies on Birchall Blackburn Law to provide the legal expertise required to help asbestos sufferers.
How long does an asbestos sufferer have to make a compensation claim?
It is important for anyone diagnosed with any type of asbestos-related lung disease to protect their rights by getting legal advice swiftly.
An asbestos-related condition, caused as a result of asbestos exposure in the course of employment, is treated as a personal injury in the eyes of the law. This means you may be eligible for benefits and compensation but it also means that you face a race against the clock to secure the compensation to which you are entitled.
The Limitation Act 1980 imposes time deadlines after which it is difficult to bring a claim. In relation to personal injury matters the act provides that a claimant generally has three years from diagnosis. However, the rules can be complicated.
The date of knowledge is important because victims of asbestos disease usually become aware of the cause of their condition not at the onset of symptoms but following examinations and tests by medical professionals. The courts have interpreted the date of knowledge as being the date on which the claimant knew, or should have known, he or she suffered from an asbestos-related condition. This interpretation imposes upon you an objective test: when would a reasonable man, in the same circumstances as you, have known he had a personal injury caused as a result of his exposure to asbestos?
Sometimes the date of knowledge is easy to pin-point simply by examining medical records. However, on many occasions medical records make reference to the possibility, or presence, of asbestos-related conditions but do not clearly identify an asbestos-related diagnosis. In some cases doctors and nurses will mention asbestos or an asbestos-related disease verbally to you but may not write it on the medical report.
The result can sometimes be that you are prevented from making a compensation claim because you are deemed to have knowledge of your asbestos-related condition some time before you knew for certain.
To avoid any time related problems it is always best to take legal advice as soon as possible.
By taking legal action as soon as possible after your diagnosis – even if your symptoms do not seem too bad at the time – you can opt for a provisional damages settlement. This allows you to return for further damages if you suffer a significant deterioration in your current condition or get another more serious asbestos-related illness. You are protecting your rights by acting now. A provisional damages settlement is akin to an insurance policy against future risks.
If you do not act quickly after being diagnosed with an asbestos-related lung disease you could miss the three-year deadline and the chance to claim compensation. That means if you later experience more severe symptoms, or develop a more serious lung disease, there is every chance that you will then be out of time.
It is vital that you receive specialist advice in respect of provisional damage settlements. Sometimes a defendant will seek to ‘buy off’ the risk of a court awarding provisional damages by offering a higher lump sum. Depending on your circumstances and the facts of the case this might be inappropriate. A solicitor specialising in asbestos compensation claims will be in the best position to give you the pros and cons.
Work with an experienced asbestos solicitor
It is very important to work with an experienced solicitor specialised in asbestos compensation claims. It is a very complicated and difficult area of law. A specialist asbestos lawyer will shoulder the burden and let you and your family focus on care and health issues.
An experienced solicitor may also handle separate claims for government benefits.
Will I have to pay for the solicitor’s help and support?
Most experienced asbestos solicitors will provide free initial advice. If the claim does progress then you should never be left out of pocket or pay anything up-front when making an asbestos compensation claim. In most asbestos claims the solicitor will work on a conditional fee agreement (CFA), which is more commonly known as a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement.
In the early stage of a compensation claim the solicitor will want to establish as quickly as possible that:
- You have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, and are within the time period
- You have had sufficient exposure to asbestos dust and fibres to cause your asbestos disease
- There is an insurer to bring a case against
It is important that the solicitor records the evidence in a witness statement as soon as possible. This ensures that the evidence of when, where and how you were exposed to asbestos is preserved. The solicitor will usually visit you in the comfort of your own home.
How do I get hold of my medical records?
The solicitor will ask you to sign authority forms so that they can access your medical records from your GP and consultant. The solicitor will instruct an experienced and independent consultant to confirm the diagnosis.
It can take between three and four months to be sent medical records but the Ministry of Justice is working with the National Cancer Registration Service and Public Health England to speed up the process of obtaining hospital medical records in cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer.
How do I get a copy of my work history?
With your permission through a signed authority form, the solicitor will also apply to the HM Revenue and Customs for your work history. From the witness statement and work history, the solicitor will make efforts to trace the relevant employers and/or insurance companies.
At the moment it can take nearly 14 months for the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to process and send a work history. However, in cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer the HMRC will prioritise the request and the records should be received within a month.
Are there any government benefits available to asbestos sufferers?
At an early stage an experienced solicitor should also help you handle separate claims for government benefits. You can find out about the main benefits relevant to asbestos-related lung diseases.
It is difficult to say how long the legal process will take. Every case is different Get Your Best Mesothelioma Settlement. For instance, it can depend on what you are diagnosed with, the wait for medical and work history, and whether you need time to appeal for extra witnesses. Each case is decided on its own facts.
In the case of people living with mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer most solicitors will aim to settle a claim without going to court within six months. However it can take longer, for example, if the case requires the solicitor to trace witnesses or the insurance company of an out-of-business employer or the case has other complications.
For more information about the mesothelioma legal process please click here.
Valuations will differ depending on your diagnosis. For example, compensation can vary depending on whether you have been diagnosed with pleural thickening or mesothelioma. Due to the severity and crippling symptoms of mesothelioma – a type of lung cancer – compensation can be considerably higher. An average mesothelioma award is £145,000 but the awards can be significantly greater and sometimes lower.
General damages are awarded for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity.
The amount of compensation for general damages will depend on the type of lung disease, its severity and the long term affects and symptoms. The ranges of awards are made from £32,000 to £95,000.
As well as general damages, financial losses can be claimed, called special damages. These are very important to an asbestos-related disease sufferer because they will help cover future care and other things that you can no longer do. They are based on economic losses and can include paying for a gardener or housekeeper as you are no longer able to do that sort of everyday work.
Special damages can include:
- Care costs
- Medical expenses (including travel to and from hospital)
- Loss of earnings
- Pension claims
- Accommodation claims
- Dependency claims
- Bereavement claims
- Services for the home
- Changes to the home and vehicle
An experienced asbestos solicitor will consider all these factors and ensure that you properly claim for all appropriate losses.
Can you claim compensation for asbestos exposure on behalf of the deceased?
If you are the spouse, partner, child or close family member of someone who has recently died as a result of an asbestos-related disease it is still possible to make a compensation claim.
If a compensation claim has already been started by the deceased then a family member can continue the claim on their behalf.
Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme
The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme, a plan that will be set up as a result of the Mesothelioma Bill, will be funded by levying active insurers and pay a discounted average compensation to mesothelioma sufferers, provided that sufferers were diagnosed on or after July 25, 2012.
To claim compensation, claimants will have to prove they experienced negligent exposure to asbestos at work and that they cannot claim compensation because the company has ceased trading or insurance details are not available for the company’s insurers.
Payouts are set to start mid-2014, and the insurers say about 3,500 payments will be issued by 2024 at £322 million (approximately $530 million).
Average compensation in 2012 was £154,000 ($253,653), but because claimants are living longer, it’s expected that average settlements over the first decade of the plan will be £124,286 ($204,711).
The plan, as it is presently billed, will only pay out at a rate of 75 percent of this average figure, implying the average payment would be £93,214 ($153,532), minus any benefits and lump-sum payments. The final average payment will likely be around £72,734 ($119,800).
Some argue that awarding only 75 percent of the “normal” amount of compensation is rewarding the insurers, who have likely lost or destroyed records that would have confirmed insurance was in place for a defendant company. If those records existed, persons suffering from mesothelioma would receive 100 percent compensation.
Tony Whitston, Chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum UK, commented in the British Asbestos Newsletter on the recent bill and how this actually supported insurers rather than victims of mesothelioma.
“For decades, insurers wantonly destroyed or simply lost records of employers’ liability insurance which victims of very long latent asbestos diseases, such as mesothelioma, would later come to rely on long after the companies who exposed them to asbestos had ceased trading,” Whitston said. “Unmoved by the suffering and incalculable loss of life caused by asbestos, insurers persistently refused to accept responsibility for their failure to retain records and turned their backs on dying asbestos victims.”