My employer has told me that I am unlikely to receive any silicosis compensation as I am a smoker. Will it be worthwhile making a claim for silicosis compensation and will a claim even be possible?
Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor
Editor in Chief
Your eligibility to claim silicosis compensation will not be affected by the fact you are a smoker. Silicosis is caused by the inhalation of silica dust which causes lung damage irrespective of whether you have ever smoked. The damage caused to the deep tissues in the lungs by silica dust is different to the damage caused by cigarette smoking. When silica dust is inhaled it lodges in the tissues in the lungs causing irritation and severe inflammation of the lung tissue. Silica dust will also cause scarring – or fibrosis – of the lungs.
However, although smoking does not affect your right to claim silicosis compensation, it still has a major impact on your health and can make the symptoms of silicosis far more severe. It is therefore essential that you stop smoking if you have not already done so.
Being a smoker – or having previously smoked – may not stop you from making a silicosis compensation claim but it can affect how much compensation for silicosis that you are likely to receive. When the amount of silicosis compensation is calculated, your age, general state of health and life expectancy will be considered. Since smoking reduces life expectancy it is probable that the silicosis compensation amounts will differ between smokers and non smokers. The symptoms of silicosis can be more severe for smokers, and this will be given due consideration when your claim amount is calculated. However, even if the amount of silicosis compensation is reduced, it will still be worthwhile claiming silicosis compensation.
Although you may have contracted silicosis in the workplace, you must establish that it was your employer who was primarily to blame for you inhaling silica dust in order to claim silicosis compensation against his liability insurance policy. Your employer owes you a duty of care to ensure that the workplace is safe and that no employee is placed at an excessive risk of injury or of sustaining an occupational disease. It is important that you seek legal advice from a personal injury solicitor about making a claim for silicosis compensation. Your silicosis claim will be assessed and you will be advised about how you can collect evidence of employer negligence.
If you were working in an environment where it was likely that you would inhale silica dust, your employer should have provided suitable personal protective equipment such as dust masks. Failure to provide appropriate personal protective equipment is considered employer negligence. If you contracted silicosis as a result of a failure to provide effective personal safety equipment you will be eligible to make a claim for silicosis compensation.