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When asbestos is disturbed or damaged, dust and fibres are released. If inhaled, these fibres can penetrate deep into the lung tissue, where the damage is done over a period of many years.
This means that it can take as long as 40-60 years or longer before someone exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma symptoms. Once diagnosed there are some treatments and surgery available which may extend life expectancy but do not provide a cure. Often the disease has progressed far past the point where anything other than palliative treatment can be given.
Once diagnosed, the life expectancy of victims is very short, which is why it is essential to act promptly in such claims. There are many fast track procedures for mesothelioma compensation to ensure that claims are dealt with quickly and effectively.
Mesothelioma fast track procedures ensure that your claim can be brought more quickly through the courts. Early interim payments can be obtained without having to wait until the end of the case. This is often essential to make the victim as comfortable as possible and reassure them that their family will have financial support after they have gone.
Shoosmiths has specialists who are sensitive in this sort of work, experienced in expedited insurance searches when the company is no longer in existence and obtaining proof of employment records from the Inland Revenue.
How do I make a mesothelioma claim
Time is of the essence in these cases, as often the life expectancy of a diagnosed mesothelioma victim may be very limited.
A claim could be given a final hearing date within four months of service of the court documents. If the claim is being brought by a member of the family, after the victim has died, the final hearing date is likely to be around five to six months after the court documents have been served.
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, usually the date of diagnosis. If the family are bringing the claim then it's usually three years from date of death.
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 mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease claims and be familiar with the fast track procedures in place for dealing with these cases.
Just because the court process is started does not mean that you will have to attend court. These claims are usually settled by negotiation, but in cases where we can't reach agreement you may need to attend court. However, if you are not well enough to attend, there is provision in the court rules for your evidence to be given at home.
If I have a mesothelioma case
If your mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos at work you will have a case to make a claim against your employer’s insurers at the time, even if the firm is no longer in business, they have moved premises or been taken over by another company. This is often the case, since the symptoms of mesothelioma don’t appear until decades after the initial exposure.
In rarer cases where the company no longer exists and was not insured, or the insurer can't be traced, a claim can be made to an insurance fund which pays damages in such cases.
Don’t be put off making a claim if you have no records of your employment like payslips. You will still have a case as we can obtain proof of employment records from the Inland Revenue, appeal for witness statements from co-workers at the time and track down the insurer if the company is no longer in existence.
As with any other claim for negligence, it is necessary to prove your employer was negligent and/or breached their statutory duty. They will be liable if they allowed you to be exposed to certain levels of asbestos, usually without any protective equipment of warning about the hazards of the material.
We must then establish causality by proving that the cancer was a direct result of that negligent exposure. The very fact of the illness itself is compelling evidence, but reports from medical experts will help to confirm that and give an idea of your likely prognosis and life expectancy.
Mesothelioma government help and benefits
Mesothelioma victims are entitled to help if the cancer was contracted at work. If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma you may be entitled to a number of benefits including Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) or a lump sum payment under the Workers' Compensation Act. In addition you may be entitled to Disability Living Allowance if you need assistance with personal care or getting around.
You may also be able to get a one-off payment under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme. The scheme is in place to compensate people with Diffuse Mesothelioma who were exposed to asbestos either negligently or in breach of statutory duty by their employers, and who are unable to bring a claim for compensation against the employer or that employer's Employers' Liability insurer.
The scheme can also make payments to eligible dependants of a sufferer of mesothelioma who has passed away. Under the Scheme, the payments vary depending on your age and when you were diagnosed and is based upon a Payment Tariff.
You can find more information about both schemes and check your eligibility on the gov.uk website. The Citizens Advice Bureau is also a good source of information and national cancer charities such as MacMillan can give both advice and practical support to individuals and their families.
More about mesothelioma claims
Mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure commonly occurs occupationally, environmentally or as a result of secondhand exposure. If mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos at work you may be able to claim from your employer at the time, even if they are no longer in business. These cases therefore require persistence and sometimes a great deal of detective work.
It is often impossible to obtain records of work practices from companies that have ceased trading and sometimes, where the claim is brought after the mesothelioma victim has died, there is no evidence from them as to how they were exposed. In these circumstances, we have to rely upon witness statements from former workmates for information about how the exposure occurred, sometimes using local press and radio appeals.
In other cases someone may have been exposed to asbestos in a public building, council property or by washing a husband's overalls.
Typically, we will also obtain GP and hospital records and reports by medical experts who can give a prognosis and estimate of life expectancy. The claim will also recover any financial losses as well as the costs of any specialist care and equipment that may be needed to make life a little more bearable. Financial provision can also be made for loved ones.
However, unlike other medical negligence/personal injury litigation, a claimant retains 100% of their award in a successful mesothelioma claim. All the solicitor's costs, disbursements and insurance premiums are recoverable from the losing defendant.
I joined Shoosmiths in 2008 as head of the personal injury team in Birmingham and was made a partner in 2011. I have been undertaking personal injury work for over 20 years, specialising in industrial disease claims. I only act for the victims of industrial diseases and accidents.View full profile
I am a solicitor who specialises in dealing with industrial disease claims including asbestos related claims. In particular, I have expertise in dealing with multiple defendant claims and those where the former employer is no longer trading.View full profile
'At a time of great sadness, my daughter and I would like to thank Shoosmiths and Sara Hunt in particular for all their help, advice and guidance. This process would have been much more painful without her help and support.'
Shoosmiths understand the importance of dealing with your claim quickly and sympathetically and will work tirelessly to ensure your family's financial security and fund any care or treatment you may require.Why Shoosmiths