14 things to know about Asbestos and The Law

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, our specialist industrial disease solicitors can help. Our expert lawyers have over 20 years of experience and have worked on landmark claims in the Supreme Court.

We can support you make a No Win No Fee* asbestos compensation claim, to give you peace of mind and ensure you have the right care in place. If you’ve lost a loved one to an asbestos-related disease, we can also help you make a claim on their behalf.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre that was widely used in construction and other industries in the UK until the 1990s. It is still used in some countries.

What are the types of asbestos?

There are three types of asbestos fibres that were commonly used in the UK.  Those are white (chrysotile), brown (amosite) and blue (crocidolite). It is generally accepted that brown and blue asbestos are more dangerous to health than white asbestos.

I have been exposed to asbestos; should I be worried?

Inhaling any dust can cause health problems. However, asbestos is known for causing health problems, mainly within the lungs, and regrettably, some of those conditions can be fatal. However, it usually takes many years (typically between 15 and 40 years) for any asbestos-related condition to develop in the lungs to the extent that it becomes noticeable and diagnosable.

The Legal Process

There are many complicated factors in making a claim for compensation. 

I would recommend that you seek the help of a Solicitor who is an expert in this specific area. OH Parsons LLP have a number of solicitors with many years of experience dealing with these cases.

Asbestos lawyer

Different asbestos-related conditions require different amounts and/or periods of exposure to asbestos.  Employers may only be responsible for exposing you to asbestos during certain periods of your working life or exposing you in a certain way. Additionally, your diagnosis of an asbestos related condition must be within the last three years to enable you to make a claim for compensation. 

Who is at risk from exposure?

During the 1950s and into the 1960s asbestos was considered to be a wonder material. It was used for many different purposes. It was extensively used in shipbuilding, ship repair, power stations, oil refineries and construction.  Companies that undertook insulation work used it in powder form mixed with water and in other forms. It was used extensively in construction for insulation, flooring, roofing and as a spray-on ceilings and walls.  Its extensive use means that it would not be surprising for any individual who was employed in a variety of different areas of work to have been exposed to asbestos to some extent. 

The question arises as to whether during that period the amount of asbestos to which you were exposed was enough to maintain a claim.  Additionally, there are many buildings, particularly public buildings, where asbestos is still situated but has been sealed by paint or other materials. Asbestos disturbed in those premises can also give rise to a risk of an asbestos-related condition. This includes for example schools and local authority buildings.

You need the help of an experienced solicitor to investigate and advise on the claim to be certain that you are giving yourself the best chance of success. At OH Parsons we have a number of suitably experienced asbestos solicitors.

What does asbestos look like?

Asbestos in its raw form is a powder. However, for its various uses, it is either mixed and applied as a paste or is formed into sheeting, woollen products or other fibrous materials depending upon the purpose for which it was used. The use determines the form it will have taken and we at OH Parsons can assist in identifying the asbestos at work in whatever form.

What happens if I have not directly worked with asbestos?

Individuals who have not directly worked with asbestos can sometimes make a claim for compensation depending upon the extent of their incidental exposure and the condition they have suffered.  For example, mesothelioma, which is terminal cancer specifically related to asbestos exposure, can arise from a very small amount of asbestos exposure. Therefore, claims have arisen, for example, from the partners and children of workers who have washed their overalls or other work clothing, children who have played outside the walls of a manufacturing plant and school staff who have repeatedly pressed drawing pins and other objects into asbestos ceiling tiles. The best thing to do is contact a specialist asbestos Solicitor, such as those at OH Parsons, and explain the circumstances of your exposure and they will be able to assist you with whether or not a claim can be made. 

What are the different types of asbestos disease?

There is a range of asbestos related conditions. They are as follows:-

    • Pleural plaques is a scarring of the lung tissue. In the majority of cases, it does not actually cause any symptoms but it is a clear indication of historical exposure to asbestos.  Presently, you cannot claim compensation for this condition before the court unless it presents with symptoms (which is rare).
    • Pleural Thickening is a condition where extensive, often smooth, scarring thickens large parts of the pleural membrane lining your lungs and chest wall.  Asbestos is not the only cause of diffuse pleural thickening.  Other causes include infection, inflammatory conditions, and non-malignant pleural effusion. It is therefore important to obtain medical advice as to whether asbestos is the potential cause. When the pleura becomes thicker and hard over a large area the lungs struggle to expand as far as they used to and this can cause breathlessness.

types of asbestos claim

    • Asbestosis is a difficult condition to ascribe to asbestos exposure. As you breathe in asbestos fibres they can get lodged in your lungs. This can cause scarring and thickening meaning it is more difficult for oxygen to reach the bloodstream. This leads to your lungs shrinking and hardening. This makes you short of breath as your lungs cannot hold air as much as they could.  Symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent cough, wheeze, fatigue or extreme tiredness, pain in your chest or shoulders and in more advanced cases swollen fingertips. The issue with asbestosis is that there is another condition called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis which is entirely unrelated to asbestos and very similar to asbestosis. To establish that asbestos is the cause it is necessary to demonstrate that there was significant asbestos exposure. At OH Parsons we have handled many claims for Asbestosis and can advise fully on this issue.
    • Lung Cancer is the growth of cancerous cells inside the lungs.  Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of developing lung cancer.  However, as most people will appreciate, so does smoking.  It is necessary to demonstrate that asbestos has at least doubled the risk of developing lung cancer over and above other factors including smoking.  Obviously, smoking is a complicating factor in relation to any asbestos-related condition that affects the lungs simply because smoking affects the lungs as well.  A medical expert will need to determine to what extent any asbestos exposure has caused symptoms over and above smoking.
    • Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that typically begins to grow in the pleural membrane around the lungs. Occasionally, it can affect a similar lining around your abdomen or heart. Symptoms usually only develop decades after being exposed to asbestos.  The condition is slow to appear but progresses quite quickly. The main symptoms are feeling out of breath, coughing, persistent pain in the chest or shoulder and weight loss. As it develops it causes fluid to build up in your chest known as a pleural effusion. This takes up the space inside your chest and squashes the affected lung.  This is a terminal condition. Life expectancy from the development of the symptoms varies significantly and there are several different treatment options that can assist in extending someone’s life expectancy or improving the quality of their life.

What other help is available if you have been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness?

Aside from the obvious medical assistance that can be provided by your GP and hospital, you should qualify for benefits from the DWP. These include for example Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, Attendance Allowance and lump-sum payment from the DWP under the Pneumoconiosis Act. It is important that you discuss these with your Solicitor, any charitable organisation that has become involved with your care or either through a local law centre or Citizens’ Advice Bureau or directly with the DWP.

You should also contact your local authority to see if any funding is available to make changes to your house to assist you as your condition worsens.

What happens if my employer is no longer trading?

You can, assuming your employer took out the necessary and appropriate employer liability insurance at the material time. It is sometimes also possible to make claims against the occupiers of the premises in which you worked, the employer of another member of your family if you suffered exposure through washing their clothes etc but typically most claims are made against an individual’s employer. If the company no longer trades and they did not take out employer liability insurance, then there could be a significant problem in making a claim simply because there would be no one available to pay any compensation. These are enquiries that can be made by your Specialist Asbestos Solicitor when you first contact them.

There is an exception to this general rule. That exception is in relation to mesothelioma claims. The Government set up a scheme some time ago which means that if an individual is exposed to asbestos at work, develops mesothelioma because of that exposure and the employer no longer exists and they did not have any employer liability insurance then the Government scheme will make a payment of compensation. Again, this is something that your Industrial Disease Solicitor can investigate on your behalf in the event that you cannot pursue your employer directly. We, at OH Parsons, have handled a number of these claims under the scheme.

How can compensation help?

Obviously, compensation for the development of an asbestos-related disease does not make you any better.  However, compensation for an asbestos related disease can be a significant amount of money that can assist you in making adaptations to your house, acquiring care and assistance, and even paying for a new vehicle or a nice holiday or setting aside money for your family.  There is no obligation to use any compensation for any particular purpose.  It is your money to do with as you wish. 

You can also establish a Trust to deposit the money which may be appropriate in sum cases. This is something again you can discuss with your solicitor.

How much can you claim?

 This is a very difficult question to answer. The amount that you can claim for an asbestos-related condition depends upon a number of factors. 

For example, the individual conditions themselves have different guidelines as to what can be awarded.

Further, for some conditions, you have to locate all of the employers who exposed you to asbestos if you want to recover 100% of your compensation.  Often this is difficult which means that you may have to accept a proportion of your compensation in relation to the employers that have been located/insurers found.

I can say that these claims are sufficiently valuable that they should not be ignored as an option and the sums that could be awarded can make a significant difference to your life in many cases. The best thing would be to speak to your Specialist Asbestos Solicitor who would be able to assist in advising you as to matters progress as to the potential value of your claim.

At OH Parsons we handle many of these claims each year and can give you an indication as to the potential value early in the process.

How would I fund my case?

These types of personal injury cases are normally dealt with on what is called a “No Win No Fee” agreement. This would mean that if you are unsuccessful the Solicitor would not make any charge to you for their time. You would be advised, in all probability, to take out some form of insurance to cover the costs of the expenses such as an expert medical report on your condition and any court fees that may have to be incurred in the future. Each Solicitor will have their own guidance on how the claim would proceed and what could potentially be deducted from your compensation if you were successful. It would be sensible to speak to your Specialist Solicitor about their own arrangements. However, any insurance premium would only be payable if you were successful in your claim and any claim for compensation for an asbestos related condition would be significantly more valuable than any insurance or any other deductions that could potentially be made from your claim.

At OH Parsons we have very clear arrangements with our clients and can explain the whole process at the outset.

What should I do next if I have been told I have an asbestos related condition?

I would strongly recommend that you contact a specialist industrial disease Solicitor who undertakes claims for compensation for asbestos related diseases. OH Parsons has a number of Solicitors who undertake this sort of work and have many years of experience in handling this type of claim. I would emphasise that it is important that you seek out a Solicitor who specialises in this type of claim rather than a non-specialist Solicitor as these types of claims are complicated and require the assistance of a specialist Solicitor with experience in this field.

At OH Parsons we are dedicated to serving working people and have been for 75 years. We act for individuals across a wide range of industries and aim to offer them all the highest standards of fairness and integrity at all times.

We have a national reputation in personal injury, serious injury claims, medical negligence, fatal accident claims, and cases relating to industrial disease. Get in touch today for a free consultation.



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