Exposure to asbestos can lead to a variety of adverse health conditions including mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. These illnesses can often arise many years after contact with asbestos.
The people most at risk are those that have handled asbestos in their jobs but there have also been cases where an asbestos related illness occurs in a family member of the person that worked with or came into contact with asbestos. In these cases asbestos fibres were inhaled from contaminated clothing.
If you were exposed to asbestos dust and later develop an illness caused by exposure to asbestos you may be entitled to compensation.
Don’t be put off from claiming for your injuries if your employer has since ceased trading. Wolferstans Solicitors in Plymouth can trace the insurer accountable for your employer at the time of the exposure. This remains a complicated area of law and it is important that a suitable legal specialist is appointed to help guide you through this difficult time.
At Wolferstans we work with specialist medical and nursing experts together with hospices to provide our clients with the best possible service. We will seek early payments in order to fund any care, equipment or home adaptations that may be required. We can also advise and assist you in making an application for benefits which are available from the government for asbestos related conditions.
The specialist asbestos team at Wolferstans has years of experience assisting asbestos sufferers and helping their families when the disease has sadly been fatal. We are well known for our success in actions against the Ministry of Defence, British Rail, power stations, ship repair yards and for those employed as plumbers, carpenters, electricians and in the construction industry.
To read some of the success stories and testimonials from our clients, please click here.
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Mesothelioma normally affects the outer lining of the lung. Symptoms usually start with breathlessness. This can often be caused due to the build up of fluid between the lung and the ribs. The condition is progressive, resulting in pain, fatigue and weight loss.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be used to alleviate symptoms.
Mesothelioma is difficult to treat, but research continues into surgical techniques and drug therapy.
Many cases of lung cancer are due to smoking, but asbestos exposure substantially increases the risk of developing lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. Lung cancer may be amenable to surgical treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are often used to treat sufferers.
Asbestosis is relatively rare. In general it affects workers who have been substantially exposed to asbestos over a period of time. The capacity of the lungs is reduced which leads to breathlessness and coughing. The condition is progressive and the symptoms can worsen over time.
Diffuse pleural thickening or fibrosis
Diffuse pleural thickening or fibrosis is caused by the build up of scar tissue leading to the thickening of the outer lining of the lungs. This means the lungs are restricted when breathing in. Any physical exertion will become increasingly difficult. Fortunately the condition is relatively rare.
Pleural plaques are an indicator of previous exposure to asbestos. They confirm previous asbestos exposure which could lead to the patient developing one of the asbestos illnesses detailed above. Very often pleural plaques are discovered by x-rays or scans showing small scars on the outer lining of the lung. Pleural plaques do not require any treatment as they do not usually cause any symptoms.
Today, asbestos is the single biggest cause of work related deaths in the UK. It claims the lives of over 4,000 people each year in the UK. Thousands more people are also affected by asbestos diseases and face the prospect of living with a decreased lung capacity often requiring care.
If you were exposed to asbestos dust and later develop an illness caused by asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation from your employer as well as state benefits.
We work with specialist medical and nursing experts to bring our clients the best possible service. We will seek early payments to fund any care, equipment or home adaptations you may require. All claims are handled personally by our solicitors working within our dedicated Asbestos Unit. You can expect a first-class service delivered by sympathetic, experienced advisors; a dedicated legal support team; and leading industrial disease lawyers who are amongst the best in their field and who will deal with your case with sensitivity and compassion.
Inital advice from us is free. We offer our clients a “No Win, No Fee” agreement which means if the case is lost we will not charge you. If successful you or your family will be entitled to damages and we recover legal costs from your opponent.
We visit our clients and their families in hospital or their home at a time suitable for them.
Unfortunately, not all asbestos claims are dealt by solicitors who are experienced and specialised in this area of law. Our team has decades of experience dealing with asbestos cases and ensuring our clients recover the correct level of compensation.
Sometimes things do go wrong and claims are under settled. You may have settled a pleural plaques, asbestosis or pleural thickening claim on a full and final basis, but not been advised as to the suitability of a provisional damages settlement which would allow you to return for further compensation if your disease deteriorated. We can investigate and bring compensation claims against the previous solicitors.
Where compensation has been received and subsequently the person’s condition has deteriorated we can, particularly if damages were previously settled on a provisional basis, re-open the case and seek further compensation.
If you are unsure as to whether you may have a claim against your previous solicitors for their handling of your asbestos claim, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss this with you.
There are many different types of asbestos:
- Crocidolite, which is more commonly known as Blue Asbestos – this was used mainly in the textile industry and was banned from use in the UK in 1985.
- Amosite, which is more commonly known as Brown Asbestos – this was mainly used for insulation and was also banned from being used in the UK in 1985.
- Chrysotile, which is more commonly known as White Asbestos – this was used in both the textile and building industries and was banned from being used in the UK in 1999.
We bring claims where there has been exposure to any of the different types of asbestos. Do not worry if you do not know what type of asbestos you came into contact with as, if necessary, we work with specialised engineer experts who can assist.
If you have recently lost a close relative due to an asbestos illness you may be feeling confused about what your options are. We understand this is a very emotional time. We hope this guide can assist you and if you require any further advice please feel free to contact us.
You may have already begun to make arrangements for the funeral to take place after the body is released by the Coroner. You should keep receipts for the expenses of the funeral, as they can form part of the compensation claim.
The inquest is a procedure in which the cause of the death is considered. If someone has died of an illness that might be related to asbestos this could be an ‘unnatural death’ so an investigation or ‘inquest ‘will be needed.
The death is usually reported to the Coroner by the medical staff who were treating the person who has died, although any other person can report the death if they are concerned.
All “unnatural” deaths should be reported to the Coroner and it is important this request is made either to the hospital, GP, hospice or police.
Part of the inquest procedure may be to examine the body. This must take place before the funeral can go ahead. This is called a post mortem examination and it is performed by a Pathologist. Often small samples from the lungs are taken so that asbestos fibres may be examined. The Coroner may ask you what you would like to happen to the tissue samples. It is vitally important that the samples are not destroyed so the samples should be retained as they may be needed for further analysis.
Claim on behalf of the estate or family of the deceased
This is a claim against the employer that exposed the deceased person to asbestos. It does not matter how long ago the employment was or if the company has gone out of business. The employer liability insurance company will be responsible for paying the compensation.
In order to make a legal claim you need to prove the exposure to asbestos, which can be done in a variety of ways, however eye witness accounts of the exposure to asbestos is the best way. For this it is necessary for us to speak to anyone who worked with the person that has died, or knew of his/ her exposure. You should collect a list of names and contact details.
You should also keep any documents that relate to the deceased’s persons employment including; CVs, References, Wage Slips, Apprenticeship Deeds, Diaries, and Photographs.
Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration
The Executor or Administrator of the Estate is responsible for making the claim and the compensation awarded should be distributed according to the Will.
You should already have been given an Interim Death Certificate. This will allow you to begin to administer the estate. If a Will was made the person(s) named as Executor(s) can apply for Probate. If no Will was made the next of kin can apply for Letters of Administration.
We can help you with this process and normally recover the cost within the claim.
You may be able to claim benefits on behalf of the person who has died. For an asbestos illness these include:
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB). This is a weekly payment paid directly to you. The amount increases with the level of disability suffered and it can be back dated.
- Pneumoconiosis (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979/ Mesothelioma 2008 Scheme payment. This is a one off lump sum payment that is made to you. The amount increases with the level of disability and decreases with age. There are rules as to who can apply and we can advise in that respect.
There are numerous industries and trades where people are likely to have worked with or come into contact with asbestos, these include:
- Carpenters and Joiners
- Plumbers: Heating & Ventilation Engineers
- Electricians: Electrical Fitters
- Labourers in other Construction Trades
- Metal Plate Workers: Shipwrights, Riveters
- Pipe Fitters
- Gas Fitters
- Construction Operatives
- Managers in Construction
- Construction Trades
- Energy Plant Operatives
- Fire Service Officers
- Painters and Decorators
- Sheet Metal Workers
- Metal Working Production & Maintenance Fitters
- Managers & Proprietors in other Services
- Metal Working Machine Operatives
- Stevedores: Dockers & Slingers
- Electrical / Electronic Engineers
- Welding Trades
- Thermal Insulation Engineers
- Shipyard workers
- Dockyard workers
- Ministry of Defence workers
- Asbestos manufacturing workers
- Power station workers
- Brake fitters and mechanics
- Demolition workers
- Insulation workers
- Roofing contractors
There are many other areas of work where people may come into contact with relatively low levels of asbestos. Even this can be sufficient to cause asbestos related problems, particularly mesothelioma which can arise from as little as one day's exposure.We have acted for wives and relatives who have come into contact at home with asbestos from the clothes or body of asbestos workers and unfortunately developed mesothelioma. This is called secondary exposure.On occasions people may not know initially where they came into contact with asbestos, but using our experience we can often trace back in time a history of exposure.
In addition to compensation there are numerous state benefits available to you if you suffer an asbestos related illness. As part of our service to asbestos disease sufferers we can provide free direct advice and assistance with benefit applications. Decisions on benefit entitlement are then made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Benefits which you may be entitled to include:
- Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 (Government lump sum)
- 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme (Government lump sum)
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (weekly allowance)
- Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance (care and mobility)
For more information, please visit the Department for work and pensions website – https://www.gov.uk/industrial-injuries-disablement-benefit
1. What will happen when I first contact Wolferstans?
When you first contact us we will take a few initial details such as:
- Employment history
- Examples of exposure to asbestos
- Medical history and diagnosis
- Symptoms and treatment
When we have this information, we will be able to consider whether we believe you have reasonable prospects of winning your case. This advice will be part of your free initial consultation.
Depending on your location we will then normally arrange to meet you either at your home, in our office or at hospital. If this is not convenient we can still take further instructions over the telephone.
2. Why do I need a solicitor?
We work with specialist medical and nursing experts to bring our clients the best service possible. We have many years of experience dealing with asbestos litigation and have a dedicated asbestos illness team. We seek early payments to fund care, equipment or home adaptations which you may require. We know what you able to claim for and use our experience to ensure nothing is missed and you receive the correct level of compensation. Our lawyers are sympathetic and will deal promptly with your case with sensitivity and compassion.
3. How long will my claim take to settle?
Each individual claim is different and will vary in length depending on the individual circumstances.
If the other party admits they were at fault, you could receive compensation within as little as two months. In mesothelioma cases we normally request an interim payment of £50,000 at the time of sending the letter of claim. On the other hand, if liability is in dispute, or you are suffering from ongoing problems, your claim may take longer to resolve.
We always endeavour to deal with asbestos cases as swiftly as possible.
4. Is there a time limit on when I can claim?
If you were exposed asbestos and were not aware of your injuries immediately the relevant date for the purposes of making a claim is the date of knowledge. Exposure in many cases happened decades ago but the damage only becomes apparent at a later date. In such cases the date of knowledge will normally be the date of diagnosis.
Personal injury claims must normally be made within 3 years of the date of knowledge. However, in some circumstances we can apply on your behalf to get the deadline extended.
It is always best to contact us as soon as you can to avoid missing any time limits on bringing a claim.
5. My employer is no longer trading. Can I still make a claim?
This is not necessarily an issue. We have means of tracing former employers and directors. We generally deal with the employer’s insurance company even if the employer is not trading.
6. I worked for different employers and don’t know which one caused my injuries. Can I still claim?
Yes, we will obtain details of your employment history to establish which employers may have exposed you or your relative to asbestos. In cases where more than one employer may be liable claims can be made against each of them. Usually a contribution will be established for each employer based upon the length of service, although in mesothelioma cases we generally only have to trace one employer or their insurer.
7. How much am I likely to receive?
The amount of compensation payable varies widely in each case and is calculated by considering factors including:
- The type and seriousness of the asbestos related condition you have.
- Pain , suffering and loss of amenity – including your age and prognosis
- The amount of physical disability the condition causes.
- Various financial losses – including loss of income, pension and dependency of family members
- Past and future care and rehabilitation costs.
- Equipment and adaptations costs
- Hospice and treatment costs
- Traveling expenses to medical appointments
- Increased utility bills
- Loss of services such as DIY, home maintenance, shopping, refuse disposal ,cleaning, gardening etc
- Funeral and probate expenses
- Statutory bereavement awards
We will claim compensation for all past and future losses. Our aim is to maximize your compensation and ensure nothing is missed or overlooked.
8. Will I have to attend a medical appointment?
In most circumstances it is helpful to be examined by an independent doctor for your legal claim, but if you are particularly ill, or it is difficult to travel, we often ask experts to prepare a report based on your medical records.
9. Can I still bring a case if the sufferer has died?
Yes, cases are commonly brought by the widow/widower or by the executors of the will who act on behalf of the estate.