Asbestos Disease Awareness. help

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1 Asbestos Disease Awareness help

2 Asbestos: Contents Asbestos Disease Awareness Contents What have I got Page 2 The five main types of asbestos How did I get it? Page 3 Can I get compensation? Pages 4/5 What help can I get? Pages 6 help Page 1

3 Asbestos: The Facts What have I got? There are five main types of asbestos related disease: Pleural plaques Diffuse Pleural thickening Asbestosis Asbestos-related lung cancer Mesothelioma It is very important that you know which disease you have. Usually your doctor will have already discussed your diagnosis, and the implications, with you. The type of disease determines what benefits and compensation you might be entitled to. Sometimes an asbestos-related disease is referred to in very general terms as asbestosis when in fact the actual diagnosis is one of the other types of disease. It is therefore important that you ask your doctor to be clear about the type of disease you have. All of the diseases have what is known as a latency period; this means that there is a delay between the asbestos exposure and the development/diagnosis of the disease. The length of this delay normally varies depending upon the type of disease. Pleural plaques These are areas of thickening of the lining of the lung (the pleura) that are seen on an x-ray. They are normally non-symptomatic and not in themselves dangerous. They are an indication of asbestos exposure, and because of that exposure there is a small chance that you may develop one of the other asbestos diseases in the future. Pleural Thickening This is usually described as diffuse pleural thickening. The condition is similar to pleural plaques but the thickening of the pleura spreads across the lung and can result in breathlessness. The condition is diagnosed by x-ray and is likely to get worse. Asbestosis The inhalation of asbestos fibres causing the inflammation of lung tissue is called Asbestosis. The inflammation results in scar tissue, also known as fibrosis, building up which reduces the elasticity of the lungs. The lungs, in turn, become stiff and breathing becomes more difficult. Symptoms include breathlessness, especially on exertion, a dry cough and chest tightness. The degree of disability varies according to the individual. The condition may progress even after exposure has ceased and cannot be reversed. You need to have inhaled a large amount of asbestos dust in order to have developed this condition. Asbestos-related lung cancer This is when the asbestos fibres cause the development of a tumour in the lungs. This restricts the space for air and makes breathing difficult. People who have asbestosis, and who also smoke, are many times more likely to get lung cancer than people who are non-smokers. It is also possible to get asbestos related lung cancer without first having asbestosis if there is a history of heavy exposure to asbestos. Page 2

4 Asbestos: The Facts Mesothelioma This is a type of cancer nearly always caused by exposure to asbestos although the amount of asbestos fibres actually inhaled need only be small. It is usually a tumour of the pleura or of the lining between the bowel and the cavity of the abdomen (peritoneum). The condition is usually diagnosed by x-ray, CT scan and biopsy. Symptoms include breathlessness, particularly on exertion, and chest/back pain. The pain is caused by a build up of fluid in the lungs, called a pleural effusion. A medical procedure called a pleurodesis is sometimes carried out to drain the lungs and provide relief from symptoms. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy may also be given. There are newer drugs being developed to try and limit the progression of this condition. However there is no known cure and life expectancy is shortened considerably. Mesothelioma can be caused by relatively short periods of exposure. People living near to asbestos factories have developed mesothelioma, as have people living with asbestos workers who brought asbestos fibres into the house on their work clothes. How did I get it? Asbestos was very common as a construction and manufacturing material particularly in the 1950's and 1960's. It was widely used because of its unique heat and chemical resistant qualities. There are three main types of asbestos that have been used in this country, brown (amosite), blue (crocidolite) and white (chrysotile). However from the late 1880's it was realised that asbestos was very damaging to health. Astonishingly, the truth about the dangers of asbestos were hidden by governments and employers. It was not until 1999 that asbestos was finally banned from this country. Shipyard workers, dockers, railway workers, insulation engineers, plumbers, joiners, roofers, labourers, engineers and maintenance fitters are all examples of people who are likely to have been exposed to asbestos in the past. People living close to asbestos factories and families of people who brought asbestos fibres home on their clothing have also developed asbestos related diseases. Asbestos damages health when the fibres are inhaled into the lungs. The fine fibres penetrate the lung tissue and are not removed by the body's natural defences. The body then attempts to break down the fibres causing inflammation. This process leads to the development of asbestos related diseases such as those listed above. Fibres also cause damage when swallowed. A fibre can stick to the lining of the intestines and move into the lining of the abdomen. The fibres can also penetrate the skin causing irritation and reddening. People who were exposed to asbestos do not always go on to develop asbestos-related diseases. It is generally thought that the longer you have been exposed to asbestos, the more likely you are to develop an asbestos related disease. There is usually a long period of time between exposure and the disease becoming evident, this can be from 10 to 50 or more years depending upon the type of disease. Page 3

5 Asbestos: Compensation Can I get compensation? There are different types of compensation available depending upon the type of disease and the circumstances in which you were exposed to asbestos. 1. Pneumoconiosis Workers Compensation Act 1979 (PWCA) This is a government run scheme that makes a one off payment to asbestos victims and their dependents. It was established to help victims whose employers have gone out of business or their insurers are untraceable. You can only get a payment under this scheme if the Benefits Agency accepts that you have diffuse pleural thickening, asbestosis, lung cancer accompanied by asbestosis or diffuse pleural thickening and, finally, mesothelioma. You need to apply for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) in order to qualify for a payment under the 1979 Act scheme. You can make an application for a PWCA payment even when the victim has died. 2. State Benefits You can claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) if you have one of the following:- Pneumoconiosis (asbestosis) Mesothelioma Primary carcinoma of the lung (with or without asbestosis/diffuse pleural thickening) Diffuse pleural thickening If your disease is because of a job you did before 5 July 1948, you cannot get IIDB. However for the first three diseases listed above you may be able to get an allowance under the Pneumoconiosis, Byssinosis and Miscellaneous Diseases Benefit Scheme If you have an asbestos related disease because of peace or wartime military activities, you cannot get IIDB. Instead you should claim a war pension. IIDB can be claimed posthumously by the family of the person who had the asbestos disease. An application can be made by writing to:- War Pensions Service Block 2, Government Buildings Chalfont Drive Nottingham, NG8 3RB Other state benefits may also be available:- If you are unable to work because of your illness, you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay, Incapacity Benefit, Carers Allowance or Bereavement Benefit If you get IIDB you may also be able to get Constant Attendance Allowance, Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance, Reduced Earnings Allowance You can get advice about these benefits from your local DSS office; Council-run benefits advisory services and the Benefit Enquiry Line (see below for contact details). Please Note:- If you are receiving any means tested benefits, then IIDB may affect the amount you or your partner get. You should take expert advice about this question from a welfare benefits advisor. Page 4

6 Asbestos: Compensation 3. Civil claim for compensation You may be able to claim compensation through the courts if you were exposed to asbestos at work or been affected by the activities of others as a non-employee, for example if you lived close to an asbestos factory and were exposed to asbestos dust escaping from those premises. In order to obtain compensation, you need to prove that your employer or other body was either negligent or in breach of a statutory provision at the time the exposure occurred. If successful, the result of a claim like this is the payment of compensation, the amount of which will vary depending upon which of the asbestos diseases you have. In order to bring a claim like this, you will need to have a good recollection of where and how you were exposed to asbestos or be able to find other evidence, such as statements of former colleagues who can remember exposure to asbestos. It is also possible for the dependents of an asbestos victim to bring such a claim after the victim has died. The funding of these cases is often by way of a conditional fee agreement. This means that your solicitor agrees to take your case on and only gets paid if the case is successful. The costs are paid by the other side in addition to your damages. An insurance policy is usually taken out to cover the possibility of losing the case. Alternatively, your trade union may cover the costs of such a claim or you may have legal expense insurance as part of your household or other insurance policies that will pay for legal costs. Compensation is paid for your injury and also for any financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injury and illness. It is also paid for any future losses, such as future loss of earnings if you will not be able to return to work. It is possible for some asbestos diseases to obtain what is called provisional damages. This means that you are awarded a sum but also have the right to come back to court to apply for a further amount if your condition deteriorates significantly or you get a more serious disease. You can decide to take a full and final settlement but you would not retain the right to return. There is a time limit of 3 years from the date when you could be expected to know that you have an asbestos disease. This is usually 3 years from the date of your diagnosis but may be later. Do not assume that because more than 3 years have passed that it is too late to make a claim. we solicitors can advise you further about all of these issues, please feel free to contact us to discuss any questions or queries you might have on Page 5

7 Asbestos: Support What help can I get? There is a network of Asbestos Victim Support Groups throughout the country, some of whose contact details appear in the useful contact section at the end of this information. They provide emotional and practical support and advice to asbestos victims and their families. Their support workers have vast experience of helping and advising asbestos victims and will be up to date on all the latest issues concerning asbestos compensation and treatment. Organisations like cancerbackup and Mesothelioma UK offer advice and support. Macmillan nurses provide practical and emotional support for patients following diagnosis. Advice on benefits can be obtained from the DWP, your local council or the Benefit Enquiry Line. Useful telephone numbers: Department of Work and Pensions DWP Benefit Enquiry Line T: Merseyside Asbestos Victim Support Group Unit 3 Oriel Close Water Street Liverpool, L2 8UQ T: Cancerbackup 3 Bath Place Rivington Street London, EC2A 3JR Freephone Manchester Advice (Manchester City Council Benefits advice section) PO Box 536 Town Hall Extension Manchester M60 2AF T: Mesothelioma UK T: Lancashire Welfare Rights Service 182 Marsh Lane Preston, PR1 8RR Tel: E: Occupational and Environmental Diseases Association PO Box 26 Enfield Middlesex, EN1 2NT T: Pneumo Section Social Security Office Phoenix House Stephen Street Barrow in Furness, LA14 1BY T: Department of Social Security and Overseas benefits Directorate IND INJ Room TC013 Tyne View Park Whitley Road Benton Newcastle upon Tyne, NE98 1BA T: Benefit Enquiry Line T: Page 6

8 help we solicitors is a modern dynamic firm that strives to achieve the highest levels of professsionalism and excellence. Our specialist industrial disease department has many years of experience in dealing with claims concerning asbestos related illnesses. You will receive clear advice from our friendly and approachable staff as they guide you through the entire process. The firm will give you free initial advice and thereafter can offer you a No Win, No Fee* arrangement under which you will be guaranteed 100% of any compensation won on your behalf. Call freephone for legal advice at no cost to you we solicitors llp Ivy Mill, Crown Street, Failsworth, Manchester, Lancashire, M35 9BG Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority Members David Wingate & Steven Evans *Subject to terms & conditions

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