Is it possible to claim pneumoconiosis compensation against a previous employer? My doctor has told me that I most likely contracted pneumoconiosis from breathing in coal dust, but I have been retired for 5 years.

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

You are legally entitled to claim compensation for pneumoconiosis provided that your condition has been contracted as a result of your employment; however only if you can establish that your employer was negligent and did not do enough to prevent you from developing pneumoconiosis.

Miners and coal workers are at a particularly high risk of contracting lung diseases such as pneumoconiosis from the inhalation of coal dust. Many claims for pneumoconiosis compensation are made each year by miners for previous exposure to coat dust. Unlike diseases such as irritant induced asthma, which may have a sudden onset in response to airborne irritants such as coal dust, pneumoconiosis usually develops over a much longer period of time. Pneumoconiosis – also known as black lung or miner’s lung – is usually caused by exposure to coal dust over a number of years and symptoms of pneumoconiosis can take years to develop after prolonged exposure to coal dust. It is not unusual for the condition to be diagnosed after a worker has retired, and symptoms of pneumoconiosis are rarely displayed by workers in the under 50 year age range.

It is possible to make a pneumoconiosis compensation claim against a previous employer as your right to claim compensation for pneumoconiosis does not end when your employment does. Damage has been caused to your lungs while you were employed, and you can therefore claim pneumoconiosis compensation for that damage against a past employer even if you have not worked for them for five years. However, your right to make a claim for compensation for pneumoconiosis is governed by strict legal time limits which start from the date that the disease is diagnosed. The Statute of Limitations in Ireland is 2 years from the date that a work related illness is diagnosed, so you will be only eligible to claim pneumoconiosis compensation if your claim is initiated within two years of the date of discovery of the disease.

It is strongly recommended that you contract a personal injury solicitor as soon as possible to discuss your pneumoconiosis compensation claim. Claims for compensation for black lung and pneumoconiosis can take some time to prepare. First of all a personal injury solicitor must locate the employer in question, who may have gone out of business or may no longer be alive. His or her previous insurance company also needs to be identified and the policy details found.

While these factors may not affect your right to pneumoconiosis compensation, they can cause delays to the claim process. Since the Statute of Limitations in Ireland only allows two years from the date of discovery of the disease in which to make a claim for pneumoconiosis compensation it is vital that legal advice is sought as a matter of extreme urgency to allow plenty of time for the pneumoconiosis compensation claim to be prepared. If a pneumoconiosis compensation claim is not commenced within the time frame stipulated by the Statute of Limitations, it will not be possible to recover pneumoconiosis compensation.