Decades ago Britain was one of the biggest asbestos importers in the world. The so-called “magic mineral” is fire-proof and was used extensively in all types of industry.
Sadly, it is also human-proof with our bodies often unable to break down the microscopic fibres and the shameful legacy of failing to stem that unwanted industrial invasion is thousands of men and women dying each year from asbestos related cancers such as mesothelioma.
In most cases, very little can be done to assist with the disease. Lung cancer and mesothelioma can be treated palliatively, or with more aggressive measures, such as chemotherapy or surgery. However, whilst the ability to address the illness itself may be limited, many victims have recourse to compensation claiming against their former employers (or their insurers). Payments can provide a significant level of support in meeting unexpected costs and providing financial security to men and women who face an uncertain future and often imminent death.
And it is not just men who worked in industry that are affected. Many cases nowadays arise from the tragic circumstances of wives who washed their husband’s clothes, or children who hugged their dad when he came home at night. Asbestos was extensively used in steam presses in clothing factories that commonly employed women. Mesothelioma is no longer “the working man’s disease” - in the past 10 years I have acted for electricians, nurses, computer technicians and even MPs.
Compensation is intended to put the claimant back in the position they would have been if the illness had never developed. That fictional target means a payment for the “pain and suffering” and reimbursement of financial losses, such as lost earnings, meeting professional care costs, buying equipment, or in terminal cases meeting the “lost” income/pension.
Costs can also be recovered on behalf of nursing homes who look after the terminally ill and this can be a vital lifeline in restoring funds to much needed services. There is no set amount of damages, but the most serious illnesses, such as lung cancer or mesothelioma, often result in payments of £150,000-£200,000.
Whilst that is no small sum, it goes little way to compensating the loss of life and tragedy that the death of a loved family member leaves. Often the benefit is the security it gives to a dying victim of knowing their partner is financially secure.
Whilst not all legal claims can proceed – some claimants are unable to locate their former employers (or their insurers) and not all legal claims win - the “safety net” of state benefits goes someway to assisting financially, including a Government scheme which will pay a lump sum of several thousand pounds to those who cannot trace old employers.
Asbestos victims are usually best advised to find representation with specialist solicitors firms who act exclusively for victims, often in conjunction with specialist medical experts. Victims can seek advice on suitable lawyers from a victims support group (see www.asbestosforum.org.uk), charities (e.g. Mesothelioma UK) or a specialist lawyers groups such as APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) or the Law Society.
Most reputable firms offer “no win no fee” agreements which give protection from legal costs. Unfortunately the Government enacted legislation in April which, in many cases, will result in a reduction of claimant’s compensation to meet some of the legal costs. Most specialist asbestos solicitors are also willing to advise on benefits without charge.
Daniel Easton is a Partner at Leigh Day solicitors. He has specialised in industrial disease claims for asbestos victims for over 10 years and is a recognised expert on asbestos disease cases. He regularly acts for claimants with limited life expectancies making urgent claims for compensation in the High Court. He is accepted as a senior litigator of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. He is described in legal directories as ‘outstandingly knowledgeable’ and ‘compassionate’ and ‘responsive’. He advises on the Asbestos Sub-Committee of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health.
Leigh Day has a team of specialist asbestos and industrial disease lawyers with unrivalled expertise in the field. Our solicitors have successfully settled compensations claims in cases relating to asbestos exposure, including pleural plaques, pleural thickening, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Leigh Day’s asbestos lawyers have secured millions of pounds in compensation in the last ten years for clients whose loved ones have died because of asbestos exposure.
Leigh Day is a specialist law firm with some of the country’s leading personal injury, discrimination and human rights teams. They act exclusively for claimants who have been injured or treated unlawfully by others.