An Introduction to Asbestos Compensation Claims

If you have been exposed to asbestos fibres or asbestos dust, and have suffered a respiratory illness or have contracted an asbestos-related lung cancer as a result, you could be entitled to make asbestos compensation claims. Provided that the exposure to asbestos was the fault of a third party – such as an employer – and asbestos exposure could have been prevented had greater care been taken to ensure your personal safety, it should be possible to claim asbestos compensation for the injuries you have sustained and the reduction in your life expectancy.

Asbestos has been associated with lung cancer and lung diseases for many years – with asbestos related respiratory problems having been acknowledged since the start of the twentieth century. Many industries took steps to reduce the level of asbestos fibres and dust in the air to protect workers as early as the 1930’s, however it was not until the 1960’s that asbestos was linked to lung cancer. In 2012, research in the UK concluded that exposure to asbestos could also accelerate heart disease and fatal strokes.

Asbestos use was not halted until the 1980’s in Ireland and, under the European Communities (Protection of Workers) (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations 1989 strict regulations were introduced in relation to working anywhere near where asbestos may be present. Most cases of asbestos-related diseases involve exposure to asbestos before the ban was introduced, but where it can be shown that “on the balance of probabilities” an employer or other third party was aware of the risks associated with asbestos, and failed to protect you from the risk of injury, it is still possible to make asbestos compensation claims.

Due to the time taken for the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases to manifest – in many cases between 20 and 50 years after exposure has occurred – it is unlikely that a victim is be working for the negligent employer concerned; however asbestos compensation claims are possible against past employers, even when the asbestos exposure took place many decades previously.

Provided that the employer did not take adequate steps to prevent employees from being exposed to asbestos fibres and dust – and employees contracted occupational diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma as a result – it may be still possible to make a claim for exposure to asbestos compensation against the employer’s insurers.

Industrial Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos covers a number of naturally occurring mineral compounds which are found in rocks and soil; mainly in South Africa and Canada. Due to the inert nature of asbestos and its resistance to chemicals, heat and its non conductive properties, it proved to be a valuable compound in manufacturing and industry, and was used in the production of many household products. Asbestos is most commonly associated with insulation against heat, although it was also used in the production of ceramic tiles, cement, car parts, textiles and many other products including Kent cigarette filters in the 1950’s. The majority of exposure to asbestos compensation claims are made by people who were employed in industry and construction.

The main industries in which workers were placed at a high risk of asbestos exposure were shipbuilding, metal sheet working, carpentry, construction and heavy industry, with any exposure to asbestos insulation placing employees at a particularly high risk of breathing in dangerous asbestos fibres and dust. These invisible particles interweave with chromosomes and disrupt normal cell activity in the lungs and it is this disruption which is believed to be the trigger for asbestos-related diseases. As the disruption is indiscernible for many years, the victim is unlikely to be aware of their condition – and their eligibility to make asbestos compensation claims – for half their lifetime.

Environmental Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure has not been limited to workers in these industries, as the families of employees were also at risk of asbestos exposure. When workers returned home, asbestos dust and fibres remained on clothing and was transferred to the home, increasing the risk of asbestos-related diseases with family members. People living close to industries which used asbestos have similarly been placed at risk of asbestos exposure, and from developing asbestos-related diseases as a direct result.

Asbestos exposure was also common for people who work in boiler maintenance, heavy manufacturing, and mining; although, since public buildings and even schools have used asbestos in their fabrication, there are many locations when exposure to asbestos is still possible. Although any level of asbestos exposure is bad for the health, when asbestos exposure has been prolonged for long periods of time, or when heavy exposure to asbestos has occurred for a limited time period, asbestos diseases can be contracted.

When asbestos dust and fibre exposure leads to asbestos-related illnesses, asbestos compensation claims can be made against those responsible for the failure in a duty of care. Failure to ensure that asbestos exposure was eliminated wherever possible is classed as negligence, and when the responsible party´s negligence leads to a personal injury being sustained, the victims are eligible to make claims for asbestos compensation.

Eligibility to Make Asbestos Compensation Claims

In order to be eligible to make asbestos compensation claims, the actions of a third party – or their lack of action – must have been responsible for your exposure to asbestos. In contrast to other compounds which are known to be hazardous to health, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. However in order to make claims for asbestos compensation it must be determined that the victim was exposed to asbestos and that the exposure has directly caused asbestos-related diseases to be suffered.

If you have been required to work with – or in close proximity to – asbestos and have not been provided with safety equipment to prevent dust and fibres from entering the lungs, it is deemed to be a failure in the duty of care to you by your employer. Even before asbestos was known to cause lung cancers, employers were aware of the dangers to the respiratory system from exposure to asbestos and had a duty of care to provide employees with a safe environment in which to work, as well as a moral responsibility to do so.

Asbestos compensation claims can be made when asbestos exposure could have been prevented. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, it is recommended that you discuss the circumstances of how you could have contracted the asbestos-related disease with a personal injury solicitor to establish your right to make asbestos compensation claims.

Asbestos Diseases

Asbestos diseases primarily affect the lungs and upper respiratory system; although it has been suggested that the mouth, nose and throat as well as the stomach – and even the ovaries – could be affected by exposure to asbestos. The main asbestos diseases include:

  • Asbestosis
  • Mesothelioma
  • Non Malignant Pleural Disease (Asbestos Pleural Disease)
  • Pleural Plaques
  • Diffuse Pleural Thickening
  • Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
  • Heart Diseases & Strokes

If you – or a loved one – have been diagnosed with any asbestos diseases you should speak with a personal injury solicitor for advice about making asbestos compensation claims. Due to the highly serious nature of asbestos diseases, the fact that there is no cure and that the illnesses are chronic and progressive, obtaining asbestos compensation can be of paramount importance for victims. Extensive medical care is often required and long term use of drugs and bottled oxygen is usually needed. The costs of making life comfortable for the victim and their families can be considerable, which is why it is often necessary for victims of asbestos-related illnesses and their families to make asbestos compensation claims. Even when the symptoms of an asbestos-related illness are mild, the illness can deteriorate considerably over time, and in many cases prove to be fatal.

Asbestos Disease Symptoms

Exposure to asbestos may cause temporary irritation of the lungs soon after exposure; however asbestos disease symptoms develop over a much longer time period, and it may take between 20 and 50 years before the symptoms of the most serious asbestos-related diseases are noticed. These typically include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Chest pain
  • A persistent productive cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever, nausea, vomiting and anaemia

If you believe that you may have been exposed to asbestos dust or fibres in the past 50 years, and are now experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is vital that you visit a doctor for an examination. You should tell your doctor that you believe that you have been exposed to asbestos dust or fibres to aid a diagnosis and to ensure that appropriate medical tests are completed. If you are subsequently diagnosed with an asbestos-related related disease, it is recommended that you speak with a personal injury solicitor about making an exposure to asbestos compensation claim.

Exposure to Asbestos Compensation

Exposure to asbestos compensation was previously only possible when asbestos exposure caused an asbestos-related disease, and the asbestos exposure occurred in the workplace. When an employer failed in a duty of care to protect workers from exposure to asbestos, they would be liable to pay exposure to asbestos compensation to the victims, with claims paid by the employer’s insurance company.

However changes to compensation laws in Ireland mean that it may now be possible for the relatives of former employees to make asbestos compensation claims. Due to the frequent changes in Irish legislation on exposure to asbestos compensation, a personal injury compensation solicitor should be consulted for up to date advice on making asbestos compensation claims in Ireland.

Timescale for Making Asbestos Compensation Claims

The Statute of Limitations in Ireland places a strict time limit on making personal injury compensation claims and is usually set at two years from the date of an accident in which personal injuries have been sustained. However in the case of asbestos compensation claims, the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases typically do not appear until 20 to 50 years after exposure. When an illness attributable to exposure to asbestos is sustained and the illness is not diagnosed until sometime afterwards, it is the ‘Date of Knowledge’ of the illness which marks the start of the two year claim period.

This means that the timescale for making asbestos compensation claims commences from the date on which an asbestos related disease is diagnosed. In cases where the death of a family member has been determined to be due to an asbestos-related disease, claims for asbestos compensation must be commenced within two years of death. Asbestos compensation claims should always be discussed with a personal injury compensation solicitor as soon as an asbestos-related disease is suspected to ensure that asbestos compensation claims can be prepared and initiated in time.

Legal Advice on Asbestos Compensation Claims

If you or somebody close to you have recently been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible to make asbestos compensation claims for damages and should seek advice from a personal injury compensation solicitor who specialises in making asbestos compensation claims at the earliest possible opportunity. If you believe you have an asbestos related disease and a doctor has not diagnosed this, or if you have had a delayed diagnosis of an asbestos related disease, it could be a case of medical negligence and a claim may be possible against the doctor or hospital concerned.

After consulting with a personal injury compensation solicitor you will be able to determine whether you are eligible to make asbestos compensation claims, and will find out the procedures which need to be completed in relation to your specific situation in order to initiate legal action.