Exposure to asbestos can result in a variety of diseases, for example asbestosis, which occurs from inhalation of asbestos fibres or contact with asbestos dust.
Many workers have been unwittingly exposed to asbestosis without any knowledge of the damage it can do. They may have been in contact with this substance over a long period of time and it is now that the effects of this are beginning to show.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to a group of 6 minerals which are comprised of crystal fibres and have a wide range of applications.
Asbestos fibres are found in pipe lagging, a form of wall and ceiling insulation, brake linings in cars and special seals for boilers. It is known for its heat resistant properties, insulating qualities, strength and flexibility.
Asbestosis fibres can be integrated into other products, for example, corrugated iron sheets as seen on roofs of outbuildings and garages.
There are 3 types of asbestos – blue, brown and white. Brown and blue asbestos have been banned in the UK since 1985. White asbestos has been banned since 1999.
(Source: Working with Asbestos: Health and Safety Executive)
This is a lung disease which occurs when someone breathes in asbestos fibres or dust over a long period of time. These fibres irritate the lungs, causing the tissues within them to thicken. This then scars the lungs.
This scarring affects the elasticity of the lungs which prevents them from functioning as per normal. It also causes unusual chest sounds or ‘crackles’which are noticeable when the chest is listened to with a stethoscope.
Symptoms of this include shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain and a persistent cough. The onset of these is gradual, usually over a period of 15 years or more and they tend to worsen over time.
Who is affected by asbestos?
Construction workers, plasterers, electricians, engineers, builders and demolition workers are most commonly affected. Men are more commonly affected as they are often concentrated in these types of jobs rather than women.
However women can be affected: if the wife or partner of a workman handles his overalls which have been contaminated with asbestos dust then she is at high risk of developing asbestosis.
A good way of approaching this is this: if you have been employed in a physical capacity in a building which was refurbished or built before 2000 then you may be at risk of asbestosis.
(Source: Health and Safety Executive)
Asbestosis cannot be cured or reversed. Plus it also increases the risk of lung cancer. The number of deaths caused by asbestosis is on the rise and may not peak until the year 2020.
The impact of asbestosis cannot be ignored. It affects not only the worker but his family as well. It can mean years of chronic illness which affects quality of life and requires constant care and support.
If any of this applies to you then you may be able to make a claim for compensation.
Making a claim for compensation for asbestosis
There has been an increase in the number of claims for asbestosis which is mainly due to the rise in the number of reported cases in the media.
Asbestosis has an incubation period of anything from 15 to 40 years which means that it can be several years before any symptoms start to show.
This is important in regard to the strict time limits set for personal injury claims. In most cases there is a 3 year deadline from the date of the accident or start of the illness.
But there are several exceptions which include industrial diseases such as this.
If you have previously lodged a claim for compensation and your condition has worsened since the payout then you may be entitled to additional compensation. This applies to cases of mesothelioma or lung cancer which are complications of asbestosis.
The legal name for this type of claim is ‘provisional damages’.
The first step in making a claim is finding a personal injury lawyer, claims management company or solicitor who has knowledge and expertise in this area. Ideally they will have many years of experience in handling these claims and will be able help you with making an application.
No amount of money will restore your health to you or pay for a cure but it will cover the costs of your medical care and any additional expenses such as loss of earnings.
You may have had to give up work as a result of your illness so hopefully any compensation will ease the financial burden of this upon you and your family. It can be used to pay for specialist care, equipment and treatment which would otherwise cause a great deal of financial hardship for you and your family.
The compensation claims process is discussed in a series of steps in our making a claim for compensation section.
Time limit for claiming compensation for asbestosis
Many claims for personal injury compensation have a time limit of 3 years. The courts are strict about this and there is no deviation from this.
However claims for an industrial disease are different. It is recognised that an illness such as asbestosis takes many years before it appears which is a lot longer than the 3 year deadline.
The 3 year rule applies to cases where the person has died from an asbestos related illness. In these cases the deadline starts from the date the death was linked to the initial exposure to asbestos.
Your personal injury lawyer or solicitor will discuss the time limit for a claim with you.
Finally, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website (www.hse.gov.uk) contains useful information about taking precautions when working with asbestos – if you cannot avoid it altogether.
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