Financial help for people with mesothelioma

Most people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are able to receive financial help. There are two main ways of receiving financial help getting:

  • benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). People with mesothelioma may be entitled to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
  • compensation from your employer, former employer, or another person or organisation responsible for your exposure to asbestos.

There are different types of compensation payment. Which ones you can apply for depends on what other benefits you are entitled to. We have more information about the different types of benefits and compensation payments below.

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

This is an important benefit that is payable to people with certain asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma. It is not means-tested and is payable in situations where the illness may have been caused by exposure to asbestos dust at work.

It is not 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. You cannot get this benefit if you were self-employed in the work that led to the exposure.

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit can be paid weekly, every 4 weeks or every 13 weeks into your bank account. People with mesothelioma are entitled to the maximum rate. If you are given this benefit, you may also be entitled to other benefits. You can get more information about these from a benefits adviser or specialist solicitor.

We have more information about Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

Compensation from employers

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, specialist solicitor. There is more information below on how to find a specialist solicitor.

For a compensation claim to be successful, you have to show the following:

  • It is likely that your mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos

    Usually, exposure will have happened during your work. But you may have been exposed in other ways. For example, you may have come in contact with the clothes of someone who was exposed to asbestos at work. More rarely, there may be other circumstances which resulted in exposure to asbestos. The legal standard of proof is that 'on the balance of probabilities' the exposure caused the mesothelioma. This means that, although it cannot be certain that the mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos, it is more likely than not that it was.
  • Your exposure happened because your employer at the time was at fault
    • careless (negligent) in not keeping up the standards required by law
    • not following specific safety regulations.

An example of this is that you were exposed to asbestos during your employment when your employer knew, or should have known, of the risks to you, even if you were unaware of them.

If a former employer has gone out of business, it may be possible to claim against the employer’s insurers. If they cannot be found, it may be possible to make a claim under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme.

Is there a time limit to claim?

Claims must be started within three years of the date you were first diagnosed with an injury due to asbestos. This means three years from the date of diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness, not three years since exposure to the asbestos.

In Scotland, the claim must be taken to court within three years or it will be stopped (time-barred). Sometimes this time limit can be extended, so ask for advice even if you think it may be too late.

Compensation payments

You may be able to get a one-off, lump-sum payment. There are different types of payment. Which ones you can apply for depends on what other benefits you are entitled to.

The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979

You may be entitled to a lump-sum payment under this act if you have been awarded Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. You can claim this payment:

  • whether or not you are likely to be able to make 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 have not already settled a compensation claim.

Even if you are likely to get compensation from the employer’s insurers, it is still worth making a claim for this benefit. This is because you may receive a payment within weeks of making the application. You must claim within one year of the award for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit being made.

Diffuse mesothelioma payments (2008 scheme)

This scheme is for people who cannot claim either the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit or the benefit under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 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 that were contaminated with asbestos dust)
  • 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 will be asked to provide information about your illness, which is available from your doctor.

Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS)

This scheme provides payments for people who were diagnosed with mesothelioma on or after 25 July 2012. It is only for people who were exposed to asbestos at work and are unable to find the employer, or the employer’s insurer. The scheme can also pay out to eligible relatives or dependents of a person who has died from mesothelioma.

You can still claim under this scheme even if you have already claimed under the 2008 scheme or the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979. If you already have a payment from one of these schemes, it will be deducted from any DMPS payment you get. Even if you have not been successful in claiming under other schemes, you may still be eligible for the DMPS scheme.

It is very important to get advice from a specialist solicitor before making this type of claim. This is because the possibility of claiming from a former employer (or their insurer) must be fully investigated first. If this has not been done, the claim will be rejected. The information given supporting the claim may affect a later claim against the former employer or their insurers. For more information about the 2008 scheme and the DMPS, visit GOV.UK.

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 your local Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee. Call the Veterans UK helpline on 0808 1914 218 for more information.

Costs of claiming compensation

Making a personal injury compensation claim in England and Wales should not cost you any money. 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 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, let your solicitor know.

If your solicitor is prepared to take your case on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, then they will arrange insurance to protect you against the risk of having to pay the defendant’s (usually your former employer’s) legal costs. Insurance should also cover the other expenses that have to be paid to make your claim, such as a fee to the medical expert for a report.

Payment of the insurance premium should be delayed until the case is finished. Ask your solicitor about this payment. If your case is successful, the insurance will be paid by the other party. Most specialist solicitors offer arrangements where the insurance covers the cost of the premiums if the claim is unsuccessful. This means that in that situation, there is no charge for the premium.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, people making a claim may be entitled to legal aid. But if insurance is available, the premium will not be repaid, even if the claim is successful. The entitlement to legal aid may be subject to a contribution. The amount will depend on a person’s financial situation.

Finding a specialist solicitor

When looking for a solicitor, it is important to look for one from a specialist team of solicitors that has experience dealing with both asbestos-related disease claims and mesothelioma claims.

There are many ways you can find a specialist solicitor:

  • You can ask your specialist nurse or doctor if they have a list of specialist solicitors.
  • The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has a list of accredited specialist lawyers.
  • 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.

It is important to know that advertisements and websites may be misleading. Before deciding on a solicitor, you may want to ask them some questions. Do not be afraid to ask them to go over anything that you have not understood or to ask for more information.

Questions to ask a solicitor

Below are some important questions you can ask a solicitor, to make sure they are suitable for your situation.

  • Is the solicitor a Fellow of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)?
  • Does the solicitor specialise in mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease cases?
  • How many asbestos cases has the solicitor handled in the past three years?
  • How many of these have been dealt with at a court hearing?
  • Will the solicitor provide you with a free initial consultation? Will they 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 they 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, in advance?
  • 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?