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If your mesothelioma could be due to exposure to asbestos through your work, you may be able to claim compensation.
Claiming compensation can be done in two ways: through benefits paid by the government and/or by suing your employer for the period (or periods) during which you were exposed to asbestos. Your specialist nurse, local Citizens Advice Bureau, a local benefits adviser or an asbestos diseases support group can tell you who to contact and help you through the benefits system.
The main benefit payable for people with asbestos-related illnesses is Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. This is paid as a regular weekly allowance to people who have mesothelioma and can show that they have worked in a job that exposed them to asbestos. The work may not have involved actually handling asbestos but may have been done somewhere where there was a higher-than-normal level of asbestos in the air. This benefit is not paid if you were self-employed in the work that led to the asbestos exposure.
You can get benefit forms by ringing the Department for Work and Pensions Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 882 200. It is advisable to do this, because if the benefit is awarded it will start from the date of the phone call.
Always keep any copies of any claim forms, letters or queries you have sent to, or received from, your Benefit Agency or the Department for Work and Pensions. If you phone the Benefit Agency, record the name of the person you spoke to and what they said and make a note of the date, time and reason for your call. Have your National Insurance number available.
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 and Veterans Agency Helpline (0800 169 22 77) for more information.
It’s important to claim all benefits you think you may be entitled to. Many people miss out by failing to claim. See the information on other financial help and benefits| for more information.
Anyone who is diagnosed as having mesothelioma and has worked somewhere where they have been exposed to asbestos in the past should consider getting legal advice from a solicitor, to see if they can bring a civil law personal injury claim for compensation from their employer.
As mesothelioma claims are a very specialised area, when contacting solicitors it is always a good idea to ask:
Your trade union (if you have one) may be able to recommend an experienced solicitor.
The Law Society| (0207 242 1222) also has a ‘Find a Solicitor’ service on their website.
For the claim to be successful you would have to show that:
It may be possible to sue your employer for specific offences against health and safety regulations – if a previous employer has gone out of business it may be possible to claim against the firm’s insurers.
Claims must be started within three years of the first ‘date of knowledge’ of any injury due to asbestos. This does not mean three years from the time of asbestos exposure, but three years from when an asbestos-related illness was first discovered.
Sometimes, a person may think they have a claim but:
In these circumstances it may be possible to get compensation from the government under the Pneumoconiosis Worker’s Compensation Act of 1979. If the claim is successful, it provides a lump sum of cash in addition to the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit paid by the government.
The 2008 Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme is for people who cannot claim compensation either with Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit or under the Pneumoconiosis Worker’s Compensation Act of 1979.
Usually this is because their exposure to asbestos was not 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), or who were exposed while self-employed. Payment is made as a one-off lump sum. The claim must be made within one year of a diagnosis of mesothelioma. You'll be asked to provide information about your illness, which is available from your doctor.
Any of the asbestos support organisations| can give you information about claiming compensation and support you through the process. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) can give you more information about the process of making claims.
Making a personal injury compensation claim should not cost you a lot of money. Most good solicitors offer a free initial interview, even if a home visit is needed. The solicitor should then be able to discuss the various options for funding, before any claim is started.
If you are a member of a trade union or a professional association, or you have legal expenses insurance cover, then you may not have to pay anything (check any insurance policies you have, for example household insurance, to see if you have legal expenses cover).
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 (which is paid back to you if the claim is successful). The insurance cover will protect you against the risk of having to pay the other side’s costs if the claim is lost or discontinued (if court proceedings have been started). In Scotland people making a claim may be entitled to Legal Aid.
Relatives of people who have died of mesothelioma can claim compensation to compensate them for their relative’s pain and suffering and any financial losses suffered as a result of the illness. It’s helpful to get legal advice before making a claim.
When a person with mesothelioma dies, the doctor who signs the death certificate must inform the coroner (the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland).
The coroner decides if a post-mortem examination is needed and an inquest will be held. The death certificate will not be released until after the inquest. This can be distressing at an already difficult time and family members may wish to get support from the specialist nurse or a support organisation.
It may help to get legal representation at an inquest if you are considering making a claim for compensation.
Please see our separate section on financial issues| for detailed information. You might also find our information on travel and cancer| useful.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2010
Next planned review: 2013
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