Financial help and compensation for mesothelioma
Most people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are able to receive financial help.
There are two main ways of receiving financial help: obtaining benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and/or obtaining compensation from your employer (this may be your current employer or a former one who was linked to your exposure to asbestos).
People often assume that benefits paid by the government are means-tested and eligibility depends on your savings and income. It’s important to remember that although some benefits are means-tested, many aren’t. A benefits adviser will be able to tell you more about which benefits you can claim. You can also get more information from our Welfare Rights Advisers by calling the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00. Local asbestos support groups may also be able to offer you advice and information about benefits. Mesothelioma UK has a list of support groups.
Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB)
This is an important benefit that’s payable to people with certain asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma. It’s payable in situations where the illness may have been caused by exposure to asbestos dust at work. It isn’t necessary for a person to have worked with asbestos to get this benefit; they only need to have been exposed to asbestos dust at work. This benefit isn’t paid if you were self-employed in the work that led to the asbestos exposure.
IIDB can be paid weekly, every four weeks or every 13 weeks directly into your bank account. It’s worth over £7,200 a year. If you’re awarded IIDB, you may also be entitled to further benefits. You’ll be able to get further information about these from a benefits adviser.
Lump sum payments
You may be able to get a one-off lump sum payment. There are two types, and which one you can apply for depends on what other benefits you’re entitled to.
The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979
You may be entitled to a lump sum payment under this act if you’ve been awarded Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. You can claim this payment:
whether or not you’re likely to be able to pursue a claim against the employer you were working for when you were exposed to asbestos dust
if the employer is no longer in business
if you haven’t already settled a compensation claim.
Even if you’re likely to get compensation from the employer’s insurers, it can still be worth pursuing a claim for this benefit. This is because you may receive a payment within weeks of making the application.
Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme 2008
This scheme is for people who can’t claim benefits either under the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit or the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979.
Usually, this is because their exposure to asbestos wasn’t as a result of their work as an employee. This can include people who came into contact with asbestos from a relative (for example, by washing their clothes that were contaminated with asbestos dust), or who were exposed while self-employed. Payment is made as a one-off lump sum. The claim must be made within a year of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. You’ll be asked to provide information about your illness, which is available from your doctor.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)/Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Attendance Allowance (AA)
These benefits are for people who have difficulty walking or looking after themselves. DLA is for people under the age of 65. As part of the welfare reforms, DLA will be replaced by PIP, starting from April 2013. AA is for people over the age of 65.
If you live in Northern Ireland, you’ll need to check with your benefits adviser which of these benefits to claim.
Anyone who is not expected to live longer than six months because of an illness can apply for DLA/PIP or AA under the special rules. Under these rules, the claim will be given priority and will be dealt with more quickly. You’ll also receive the benefit at the highest rate.
Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance
If you’re an employee and unable to work because of illness, you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay. This is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks of sickness. Before your Statutory Sick Pay ends, check whether you can claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This benefit gives financial help to people who are unable to work due to illness or disability.
It also provides some support to those who can work. There are two types of ESA: contributory-based (dependent on national insurance contributions) and income-related (means-tested).
People may get either or both, depending on their national insurance contribution record, their income and their savings.
From October 2013, income-related Employment and Support Allowance will be replaced by Universal Credit. Contributory-based Employment and Support Allowance will stay the same.
Help for people who were in the armed forces
If you were in the armed forces and you have mesothelioma because you came into contact with asbestos, you may be able to make a claim with the War Pensions Agency (your local office will be in the phone book). You can also call the Service Personnel & Veterans Agency Helpline (0800 169 22 77) for more information.
Compensation from your employer
Anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma who has worked somewhere where they were exposed to asbestos in the past may be able to claim compensation from their employer. This includes people working in the armed forces who have been exposed to asbestos after 1987.
This type of compensation claim requires specialist legal knowledge and must be made through an experienced or specialist solicitor. There are several ways you can find a specialist solicitor. You can ask your specialist nurse or consultant if they can recommend one. Or, you can ask your local asbestos support group as they often work closely with a panel of local specialist solicitors. You can get details of local support groups from Mesothelioma UK.
When looking for a solicitor, it’s important to look for one from a large firm of solicitors that has experience dealing, not just with asbestos-related disease claims, but also with mesothelioma claims. You should bear in mind that advertisements and websites may be misleading. Before deciding on a solicitor, you may want to ask them the questions below. Don’t be afraid to ask them to go over anything that you haven’t understood or to ask for more information.
Questions to consider
Does the solicitor specialise in mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer cases?
How many asbestos cases has the solicitor handled in the last three years?
How many of these have been dealt with at a court hearing?
Is the solicitor a Fellow of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)?
Will the solicitor provide you with a free initial consultation?
Will the solicitor visit you at home, if necessary?
Will the solicitor provide you with a free summary of what will be involved in making your claim?
Will the solicitor work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis?
Will the solicitor obtain an insurance policy to cover legal fees?
Will the solicitor take a percentage of your compensation?
Will you be expected to pay expenses, such as medical report costs and court fees up front?
How will you be kept informed of what is happening with your claim?
How long will the claims process take?
How soon does the solicitor expect to start a court action?
For a compensation claim to be successful, you have to show that:
It’s likely that your mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos during the course of your work. Or, that you washed clothes of someone who came into contact with asbestos at work. This may be difficult to prove. The legal standard of proof is that 'on the balance of probabilities', the exposure caused the mesothelioma. This means that, although it can’t be certain that the mesothelioma was caused by an employer, it’s more likely than not that it was.
Your exposure occurred because your employer at the time was careless (negligent) in not keeping up the standards required by common law or they were in breach of specific safety regulations. An example of this is that you were exposed to asbestos during your employment when your employer knew, or ought to have known, of the risks to you.
If a previous employer has gone out of business, it may be possible to claim against the employer’s insurers.
Claims must be started within three years of the date you were first diagnosed with an injury due to asbestos. This doesn’t mean three years from the date of asbestos exposure, but three years from the time you were told that you had an asbestos-related illness. In Scotland, the claim must be raised in court in the three-year period or it will be time-barred.
Sometimes, you may think you have a claim but your employer has gone out of business and your employer’s insurer can no longer be traced. However, tracing an employer is often possible.
Costs of claiming compensation
Making a personal injury compensation claim shouldn’t cost you a lot of money, if any. Specialist solicitors should offer a free initial consultation and to deal with your claim on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. They will also come to visit you at home, if needed. Make sure you discuss with the solicitor the various options for funding, before any claim is started.
If you’re a member of a trade union or a professional association, or you have legal expenses insurance cover, let your solicitor know.
If your solicitor is prepared to take your case on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, then you may have to pay a one-off insurance premium. The insurance premium will protect you against the risk of having to pay your employer’s legal costs. It may also cover other expenses that have to be paid to progress your claim, such as a fee to the medical expert for a report in support of your claim. Payment of the insurance premium may be delayed until the case is finished - ask your solicitor about this. If your case is successful, the insurance will be paid (in part, if not in full) by the other party.
In Scotland, people making a claim may be entitled to Legal Aid. But, if insurance is available, the premium won’t be repaid, even if the claim is successful.
Compensation for family members
Relatives of people who have died from mesothelioma may be able to claim compensation for their relative’s pain and suffering, and some financial losses suffered as a result of the illness. It’s helpful to get legal advice from a specialist solicitor on how to make a claim.