Claiming compensation for mesothelioma

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and you have been exposed to asbestos in your workplace you may be able to claim compensation. This includes people working in the armed forces who have been exposed to asbestos since 1987.

Making a claim needs specialist knowledge of this type of law, so it is good to get a specialist solicitor. There are solicitors who have experience making claims for people with mesothelioma.

You may be able to find a specialist lawyer by:

  • asking your specialist nurse or doctor
  • searching the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers’ database
  • ask your local asbestos support group.

You will have to prove certain things about your exposure to asbestos for a claim to be successful. Claims must be made within 3 years of your diagnosis.

Making the claim should not cost you a lot of money and if you are a member of a trade union or professional association you may have your legal costs covered.

Relatives of people affected by mesothelioma may also be able to claim compensation.

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. 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.

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 (see below). Do not be afraid to ask them to go over anything that you have not understood or to ask for more information.

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.

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

  1. 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.
  2. Your exposure happened because your employer at the time (or another person or organisation responsible) was:
    • 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.

Claims must be started within 3 years of the date you were first diagnosed with an injury due to asbestos. This means 3 years from the date of diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness, not 3 years since exposure to the asbestos. In Scotland, the claim must be taken to court within 3 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.

When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the doctors said that I should be looking into claiming compensation. This is because mesothelioma is generally only caused by exposure to asbestos.


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.

My solicitor is a specialist in industrial disease claims, he’s very understanding. He knows that we can’t talk for too long as I get tired, so we’ve spoken by email.


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 last 3 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?

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