The importance of provisional settlements for pleural thickening and asbestosis claims.
I clearly remember receiving e-mails telling me the tragic news that two of my former clients had developed terminal conditions. For Malcolm, his daughter got in touch. With Terry, with his permission, I heard from the mesothelioma specialist (asbestos cancer nurse) at Derriford.
For each of them, I had settled their claims for less serious asbestos related diseases a year or so earlier. Malcolm had asbestosis, which was not progressing and whilst it made him breathless, his respiratory disability was assessed at only 15%. For Terry, it was diffuse pleural thickening which again caused him breathlessness, but at a relatively low level.
Fortunately, we had discussed the importance of provisional settlements: accepting a few thousand pounds less at that stage to “leave the door open” to seek further damages if something more sinister developed, or they deteriorated significantly.
The alternative would have been to settle on a full and final basis: barring the right to claim further compensation from that particular defendant in the future.
Generally, the risks of progression are low. When handing over the cheque, my clients and I often joke about how they will enjoy the money and that they should “never darken my door” again with any more serious illnesses. Happily, most don’t, but the few who do develop cancer are relieved to have accepted the advice to settle on a provisional basis.
Terry and Malcolm had both worked at Devonport dockyard: one of them for his entire career and the other just a few years, which was still enough time for him to have developed an asbestos related disease.
Re-opening their claims was swift and painless – we had an admission from the Ministry of Defence and a court order in place. £50,000.00 interim payments were soon paid to help make life a little easier. We helped with benefits forms, which practically doubled state pension entitlement. My clients and their families had enough to worry about and I was determined that money would not be added to the list.
Sadly, both clients passed away before full and final settlement was reached. Malcolm’s widow received a substantial six figure settlement in addition to previous compensation received and it is expected that Terry’s widow will receive a similar figure.
By recklessly exposing dockyard workers to asbestos, the Ministry of Defence is responsible for a lot of misery for many local families.
Progressing claims effectively, efficiently and with empathy makes a real difference to them, I hope.
I should add that asbestos workers with lung cancer or mesothelioma should call the specialist asbestos team at Wolferstans, even if they previously settled claims on a full and final basis. We can advise regarding state benefit entitlement and there could be a claim against another defendant in English law. Additionally, there is the possibility of extremely lucrative claims against the American manufacturers of asbestos products used on British ships.