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Home » Latest News » Asbestos Disease Claims: What You Need to Know

Asbestos Disease Claims: What You Need to Know

Asbestos Disease Claims: What You Need to Know

Deaths from asbestos related diseases are still on the rise. Experts had thought that by now, the numbers of people dying from mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis would have started to fall.

Deaths from asbestos related diseases are still on the rise. Experts had thought that by now, the numbers of people dying from mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis would have started to fall. The statistics are startling, with the last official figures from the Health and Safety Executive showing over 2500 deaths in the year (2016) from mesothelioma, another estimated 2500 deaths from asbestos-related lung cancer and around 500 deaths from asbestosis. These figures do not include the numbers of asbestosis and pleural thickening sufferers who live with their conditions on a daily basis.

The reason that these rising figures are all the more startling, is because asbestos diseases are caused by exposure to asbestos that occurred many years ago. After all, the two deadliest types of asbestos, blue asbestos and brown asbestos, were banned from being used and imported into the UK, in 1985. In 1999, the least dangerous form of asbestos, white asbestos, was also banned.

Most, but not all asbestos sufferers, were exposed to the deadly dust and fibres of asbestos as a result of their occupations. However, some of the most tragic cases of death from asbestos disease, are those where family members of workers also contracted one of the asbestos diseases (almost always mesothelioma) due to the washing of their loved one’s work clothes, thus being exposed to the deadly fibres which were on the workers clothes.

Why are people still getting asbestos diseases so long after the use of asbestos was banned?

This is because of something called the ‘latency period.’ In a nutshell, from being exposed to asbestos fibres and dust, through to starting with symptoms of asbestos disease, can take as long as 20 to 50 years or more. Once exposed to asbestos, the fibres lie dormant on the lungs for a long time before causing a diagnosable disease. Hence the reason that people who were exposed to asbestos as long ago as the 1960s, are only now, when aged in their 70s and 80s, being diagnosed with one of the diseases or illnesses that asbestos exposure causes.

So, does that mean that if I worked with asbestos or in an environment where asbestos was being used or manufactured, that I am going to get an asbestos disease?

No, not necessarily. It is something of a lottery as to who goes on to suffer from one of the diseases and who does not. There is evidence to show that smoking contributes to a higher risk of asbestos disease. It is true though to say that some people who had moderate to heavy exposure to asbestos will not get asbestos disease and often why one person does and one person does not, is impossible to say.

What were the most high-risk asbestos occupations?

  • Car Mechanics
  • Construction Workers
  • Electricians
  • Firefighters
  • Insulation Engineers
  • Shipbuilding
  • Mining
  • Plumbers
  • Pipefitters
  • Building Trade
  • Boilermen
  • Railway Engineering Workers
  • Factory Workers
  • Textile Mill Workers
  • Farm Workers
  • Hospital Workers
  • Teachers
  • Power Station Workers

This list should not be seen as including every occupation where workers were at risk of exposure. As a guideline, those who were engaged in jobs where they drilled, cut or otherwise worked with asbestos on a fairly regular basis, or worked in the vicinity of work colleagues who were doing so, were at risk of moderate to heavy exposure from asbestos.

Is this long ‘latency period’ the reason asbestos disease compensation claims are still being made in large numbers?

Yes, it is. Here at Bridge McFarland our asbestos claims solicitors, Leanne Keating and James Burrell are being asked to act for new clients on an almost daily basis. Leanne and James are both experts in the field of asbestos disease compensation claims, an expertise that both have developed over many years of working on behalf of asbestos disease sufferers from Humberside and nationally. They regularly travel to see their clients, wherever they are in the country.

It is important that when you have decided to make an asbestos disease claim, you choose a solicitor who is highly experienced in dealing with asbestos compensation claims. The claims can be complex and by choosing to use a solicitor who is a specialist in the area of asbestos claims, such as Leanne or James, you will be able to rest assured that your claim is being handled by asbestos experts who really do have your best interests at heart, at what will be a very difficult time for you and your loved ones.

What are the asbestos diseases or illnesses that you can make a compensation claim for?

There are four main asbestos diseases or illnesses that it is possible to make a compensation claim for and they are:

1. Mesothelioma – this is a tumour which grows inside the lining of the abdomen or more commonly in the external linings of the lungs. Mesothelioma is a cancer that is only caused by exposure to asbestos. At the moment there is no cure for mesothelioma, although scientists are working hard to find drugs that may ultimately fight this disease. Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, sadly suffers often pass away within 12-18 months of diagnosis.

2. Asbestos Lung Cancer – lung cancer caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres and dust.

3. Asbestosis – a fibrosis or scarring of the lungs, caused by heavy exposure to asbestos dust.

4. Pleural Thickening – this is a scarring of the visceral lining of the lungs. It causes varying degrees of breathlessness to the sufferer.

It is possible to make a claim for asbestos disease compensation for all the conditions outlined above.

There is one other condition that is commonly caused by exposure to asbestos. This is called Pleural Plaques. Pleural Plaques are a sign of asbestos exposure too. Pleural Plaques are a form of scarring of the thin membrane that covers the lung (also known as the pleura). Pleural plaques are benign (non-cancerous) and are usually asymptomatic. This means that they do not cause pain or other difficulties. It is no longer possible to claim compensation for Pleural Plaques following a ruling by the House of Lords in 2007. As a result of this, the government set up a scheme whereby those who had started a claim for Pleural Plaques compensation before 17th October 2007, were able to claim for a one-off payment of £5000. From the 1st April 2011 no compensation for Pleural Plaques can be claimed for in England and Wales. It is still possible to claim for this in Scotland (provided the asbestos exposure took place in Scotland), as Scotland has a different legal system.

I worked with asbestos many years ago and am worried that I may have an asbestos disease. What should I do?

1. If you are in good health, then that is great news. As we have said already, not everyone who worked with asbestos is going to go on and get one of the diseases or illnesses described above. It is probably a good idea to have regular check-ups with your GP and to explain to him or her, that you worked with asbestos and that you want to ensure that you are keeping healthy. Your GP will take on board that you worked in an environment where exposure to asbestos was a strong possibility and will wish to ensure that any early signs of breathing difficulties or chest pains, are thoroughly checked over.

2. If you develop any of the following symptoms it important that you get checked over by your GP as soon as possible:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • A persistent cough that will not go away
  • Swelling of the legs

Clubbing (widening and rounding) of the fingers or toes Should your GP, after giving you a check-up, believe that there is cause for concern, then he or she will probably refer you for tests – chest X-ray or CT scan - to look for evidence of asbestos in your lungs. If any problems are found by the scan or X-ray, then you will be referred to a consultant to find out if you have an asbestos illness and to diagnose the specific condition. If the worst happens and you are diagnosed with an asbestos condition, please do contact our asbestos specialist solicitors here at Bridge McFarland with a view to pursuing an asbestos disease compensation claim. We fully understand that it will be a difficult time for you. However, once you have instructed us and we have visited you to take full details of your work history, we will be able to get underway with a claim for you. It may be that as so many years have passed since you were exposed to asbestos, that one (or more) of the firms that you worked for, are no longer in existence. That is why instructing a specialist asbestos solicitor is so important. Because they are so experienced, Leanne and James at Bridge McFarland have dealt with this situation so many times before and have access to records and information that enables them to identify who the insurance company of a now defunct company were, in most cases. As long as they are able to do that, then they can still pursue a claim for you even if your employer no longer exists.

3. If you have already been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, Asbestos related lung cancer, Asbestosis or Pleural Thickening, and you are wondering where to turn next, then just call our asbestos disease specialists at Bridge McFarland. They will go through your options with you and they will also be able to give you some useful advice, such as explaining some of the industrial disease benefits that are available from the government in certain cases. They will of course be only to willing to help you with making a compensation claim, should you wish them to do so. The choice though will be yours. They won’t put any pressure on you.

Finally, there are time limits within which to bring a claim for an asbestos related disease. In its simplest terms, you generally have 3 years from being told that you have an asbestos disease by a medical expert, within which to start your claim.

If you are worried that you may have the symptoms of an asbestos disease or if you have already been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, just contact our asbestos experts at Bridge McFarland who will be pleased to answer any questions that you may have, about anything in this article. We can be contacted on 01482 730326 or by email enquiries@bmcf.co.uk