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Asbestosis and asbestos-related disease is most commonly associated with workers in the industrial and construction sectors. It's here that many people will have been exposed to the toxic substance in the normal course of their employment.
Asbestos was used extensively in many industrial environments, including power stations, shipping or dockyards and railway works. It was commonly used as pipe and boiler insulation, fireproofing material, brake linings and in building materials. When the material is disturbed or damaged, dust and fibres are released. If inhaled, they can trigger asbestosis, lung cancer and diffuse pleural thickening.
However, you need not have worked in heavy industry, engineering or construction to contract an asbestos-related disease. You may have been indirectly exposed in some other way, by washing overalls which had asbestos dust on them or coming into contact with asbestos in a school or hospital.
If you acquired asbestosis as a result of negligent exposure to these deadly fibres at work or in an environment you believed was safe, you are entitled to make a claim for the harm and injury you suffered, even if it is decades after the original event.
Asbestosis government help and benefits
There are a number of state benefits available to people suffering from asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis. Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit provides weekly payments to people who are suffering from specific diseases contracted in the course of certain types of employment.
These are referred to as 'prescribed diseases' and are listed in regulations issued by the Secretary of State. Several of these prescribed diseases relate to asbestos exposure: Mesothelioma, Pneumoconiosis, Asbestosis, asbestos related lung cancer and diffuse pleural thickening.
You can get more information by calling the Department for Work and Pensions Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 882 200. Benefit entitlement starts from the date you contacted the DWP, not the date you contracted the disease or got a diagnosis, so it's important to call them straight away. This benefit is not paid if you were self-employed in the work that led to the asbestos exposure.
You may also be entitled to Disability Living Allowance if you need assistance with personal care or getting around. If you were in the armed forces when you contracted asbestosis, you may be able to get help through the War Pensions Agency by contacting the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency on 0800 169 22 77.
How do I make an asbestosis claim
As a general rule you usually have to start a claim within three years of when you knew or ought to have known you were suffering from an illness caused by asbestos exposure. This is usually the date of diagnosis, not the date of exposure.
Once you have a confirmed diagnosis it is vitally important to act quickly and seek legal advice from a law firm that specialises in this work. Your lawyers should have a proven track record of successfully dealing with the serious issues surrounding asbestos related disease claims and be familiar with the fast track procedures in place for dealing with these cases.
Getting some form of damages for asbestosis is feasible if you contracted the disease as a result of asbestos exposure through your work. Since a House of Lords ruling in 2007, the courts have held that employers should have known exposing their employees to even low levels of asbestos dust created a significant health risk.
Therefore, for well over half a century from the mid-1960s at least, precautions should have been put in place and protective equipment issued by your employer. If the company was negligent in doing so, you can make a claim. You should talk to us straight away. We can give you the benefit of our experience in these cases, as well as help with the provision of medical treatment and objective advice about the likely success of you claim.
If I have an asbestosis case
If your asbestosis was caused by exposure to asbestos at work you will have a case against your employer’s insurers at the time, even if the firm is no longer in business or has been taken over by another company. It is possible to bring any defunct companies legally ‘back to life’ for the purposes of making a claim.
If you are diagnosed as having pleural plaques, the ‘least serious' of all the asbestos-related diseases, you may not have a case for a claim. The government will not pay any benefits for this condition and it is not possible to make a civil claim in England or Wales (the Scottish Parliament passed legislation in March 2009 allowing claims for pleural plaques if the asbestos exposure took place in Scotland).
If the asbestos exposure took place some time ago and you have no records of your employment at the time you could still have a case. We can obtain proof of employment records from the Inland Revenue, appeal for witness statements from your co-workers and track down the insurer if the company is no longer in existence.
It is necessary to establish that your employer was indeed negligent in the duty of care they owed to you as an employee. They will be liable if they allowed you to be exposed to asbestos, usually without any protective equipment or warning about the hazards of the material, and we can show that the asbestosis was a direct result of that negligent exposure.
More about asbestosis claims
It can take decades for asbestosis to become apparent after exposure to the asbestos fibres which cause it. Before contacting a lawyer you should urgently seek medical advice. It could well be that you are suffering from pleural thickening or pleural plaques, both non-malignant diseases which also result from asbestos exposure.
Asbestosis is caused by inhaling asbestos fibres which scar the lung tissue, which then becomes hardened and incapable of absorbing oxygen and exchanging carbon dioxide. As a result, breathing can become restricted.
The symptoms of asbestosis usually include persistent coughing, a shortness of breath (after any physical activity, but eventually while resting as well) and tightness in the chest. A less common symptom is known as 'finger clubbing', where the ends of the fingers become swollen and red as a result of a fluid build-up.
You usually have to start a claim within three years of discovering you have an illness caused by asbestos exposure. This is usually taken to mean the date of diagnosis or the first 'date of knowledge', not three years from the time of asbestos exposure.
If you receive a diagnosis of asbestosis and wish to make a claim, there are fast track procedures that can be followed to ensure you get the help and support you need as soon as practicable. Shoosmiths specialist lawyers will be able to advise you about this and talk you through the process.
Sharine is an award-winning lawyer in the personal injury department, acting on behalf of claimants and their families through a wide range of cases including stress at work, workplace accidents, illness and disease claims, asbestos related claims, psychiatric illness/PTSD and military claims.View full profile
Kate specialises in dealing with serious personal injury claims, including workplace illnesses, industrial disease, asbestos related claims, and catastrophic injuries. In particular, she has expertise in dealing with multiple defendant claims and those where the former employer is no longer trading.View full profile
'Shoosmiths got me the rehab I needed and really helped with my family. They were fantastic throughout.'
Our senior specialists have a proven track record in asbestos claims, handling a number of high value settlements for more than £500,000 and cases fought all the way to the Court of Appeal.Why Shoosmiths