Asbestos claims can result in compensation for individuals who have been exposed to asbestos and as a result, have developed asbestos-related illness.
In the 1990’s asbestos, which had been commonly used in construction and other industries, was banned for use in the UK as it was found to cause fatal illnesses. Since then, legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 has made employers obligated to ensure their employees are not exposed to asbestos and that they are sufficiently informed of the health and safety risks of asbestos exposure.
Legislation on public health and safety and corporate responsibility has broadened this employer duty to protect the general public from negative effects of asbestos exposure.
The law surrounding asbestos negligence claims is complex, requiring sufficient evidence that you were exposed to asbestos, that the defending party is legally responsible for exposing you to it, and that the asbestos caused your illness. Understanding how the asbestos negligence claims process works is essential in identifying whether you have a claim and how to successfully claim compensation.
Do you have a claim?
Asbestos claims for negligent exposure are reliant on the victim being able to prove that they have developed an asbestos related illness. Only diseases which have a proven asbestos link can be claimed for. However, there are multiple diseases and conditions which have a proven link to asbestos exposure including:
- Lung cancer
- Pleural thickening
- Pleural plaques
The symptoms, severity and prognosis of these conditions vary considerably but all could potentially result in a valid compensation claim if the claimant is able to prove that exposure to asbestos dust or fibres caused the condition as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty of care.
In addition to proving that you have developed an illness caused by asbestos exposure, the damage element of your claim, you will also need to prove that the defendant had a duty of care for your wellbeing which they breached. You must demonstrate that the defendant’s negligence led to your exposure to asbestos and that the exposure resulted in you developing the illness. A strong causation link must run through your claim in order for it to be successful.
Who can claim?
Exposure to asbestos can occur in a variety of circumstances meaning there are different types of claimant from employees who were improperly trained in asbestos exposure or unaware of an asbestos risk, to residents who lived in close proximity to asbestos or the family of a deceased victim.
Although employees working in asbestos related industries are common claimants, anybody who was exposed to asbestos dust or asbestos fibres and can prove negligence may be eligible for compensation.
You may have a claim if:
- You were exposed to asbestos dust or fibres at work
- You reside in close proximity to a workplace or factory where asbestos is in frequent use
- You live or are related to any person whose workplace is contaminated by asbestos (co-habitants may be exposed due to asbestos dust settling on the hair, skin and cloths of a worker)
- Your injuries or illness are minor, claiming for smaller injuries may help ensure higher compensation later on should your condition develop (there is an average 35-50-year latency period with most asbestos related diseases so worsening symptoms are highly probable)
- You worked in multiple asbestos-related workplaces simultaneously
- Even if the company, business, or employer responsible for the exposure has gone out of business you can still file against the insurer who covered the defendant at the time of exposure
For victims of asbestos poisoning as a result of exposure through their employment, in addition to proving the illness you will need to prove that is was caused by exposure to asbestos and that your employer was aware of the risk.
From the early 1990’s, asbestos-related laws have been put in place to increase the responsibilities of UK employers in terms of protecting their employees from the effects of asbestos. Laws banning the use and import of chrysotile asbestos in 1999, restrictions on legally acceptable exposure, and the legal requirement that only asbestos experts, who have received specific asbestos awareness training, should come into contact with asbestos products, have all contributed to a high level of employer responsibility to the protection of their employees from asbestos poisoning. Working with a solicitor will help to identify whether and how your employer has breached their obligation to you and can be considered liable.
If you have developed an illness due to asbestos exposure from proximity of your residence, or through association with an individual who was exposed through their work, you will need to prove the link between your illness and asbestos exposure as well as how the defendant neglected their duty of care to the public. There are a number of laws regulating organisations who work with asbestos which include obligations towards public safety. A solicitor will be able to help you to track down the source of asbestos exposure and determine who is responsible for your exposure.
It is possible to claim for asbestos negligence both as a victim or as the family of a deceased victim as long as you meet the claims criteria.
Making a claim:
You must file your asbestos negligence compensation claim within 3 years of the date your diagnosis was made known to you. If you are claiming compensation on behalf of a deceased family member, the claim must either be filed within 3 years of the victim’s death or within 3 years of when you became aware the cause of death was linked to asbestos exposure.
There is a pre-action protocol for personal injury claims, including asbestos negligence claims, which must be followed. Your solicitor will initiate proceedings through sending the defendant a “Letter of Claim”. The letter will set out the basis of your claim, in this case how you were exposed to asbestos through the defendant’s negligence and how that exposure resulted in your related illness as it is known at that point.
The defendant or their legal representation has 21 days in which to acknowledge receipt of the letter after which they have 3 months in which to investigate claim. They must respond informing you whether they accept liability before by the 3-month deadline.
If the defendant does not accept liability your solicitor will work with you to provide evidence proving your exposure to asbestos due to the defendant’s negligence and that the exposure caused you illness. This evidence may come in many forms including medical reports furnished by a reputable respiratory disease expert, witness statements, company records and photographs.
Once the defendant has accepted liability, the pre-action protocol will have been fulfilled and negotiations can begin. If an acceptable settlement can be negotiated then you will be able to avoid taking your case to the courts. Your solicitor will be able to guide you or handle the negotiations on your behalf to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
If an appropriate settlement cannot be agreed with the defendant then you solicitor will issue court proceedings by sending a Claim Form and Particulars of Claim form to the courts. These forms set out the basis and compensation value you are claiming for. Your solicitor can then serve proceedings on the defendant and the courts will allocate your trial.
To try and ensure that victims of asbestos exposure are able to receive their settlement within their lifetime, there is a special fast track for asbestos claims which may be awarded to your case by the courts. You solicitor will be able to present your claim to the courts so that, if eligible, your claim if fast tracked.
Your case will be given a trial date and both parties will then have time to prepare their case. During your trial both your party and the defending party can give evidence and present their case at which point the judge will make a ruling regarding your claim.
Why legal advice:
Claims are usually made by individuals against former employers or asbestos manufacturing companies for failing to provide adequate protection against the damaging effects of the substance. The claim is based on the premise that the defendant has breached their duty of care or “reasonable responsibility” to take reasonable steps to prevent harm such as providing protective clothing and safe equipment, providing sufficient training and sharing safety information etc. If this breach has caused damaging exposure to asbestos and resulted in the development of a related health issue they may be able to claim compensation. Families of individuals who have died as a result of asbestos exposure may also be able to claim for negligent exposure.
Asbestos exposure and the resulting illnesses can dramatically reduce both your life expectancy and quality of life. If you have developed an asbestos related disease due to the negligence of a third party, making a claim can help provide you and your family with the financial settlement you deserve. Asbestos negligence claims are complex and require specialised experience. Seeking legal advice as soon as you become aware of your illness is the best way to ensure a successful case and maximum compensation.