- Am I still entitled to state benefits if I get a compensation award?
Some industrial diseases mean that you are entitled to claim state benefits, even if they are means-tested, as well as bringing a legal claim. Irrespective of whatever amount of money you may have been awarded in compensation, asbestos victims continue to receive payments under the Pneumoconiosis Workers Compensation Scheme. Other victims of industrial diseases can ring fence their compensation award by setting up a personal injury trust and still retain their entitlement to means tested benefits such as Employment & Support Allowance (ESA).
- Can an industrial disease claim still be brought if the person has died?
Yes, mesothelioma cases are commonly brought by the widow, widower or relatives of the victim as this pernicious cancer has no cure and is inevitably fatal. Even if you personally started a claim and die before it's settled the claim does not die with you. It can be continued by your estate's legal representative (the person named as executor in your will if you leave one) or by a family member.
- Can I still bring a claim if I live outside the UK?
Yes. Given the long lead times for mesothelioma to become apparent, it's perfectly possible that a victim may have moved abroad to be with family for example without being aware that they were harbouring an illness. If you worked with asbestos in the UK before you moved overseas, you can bring a claim for compensation in the usual way. Ex-pats may also be entitled to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit and a lump sum payment.
- How can I be sure my illness was caused by my working conditions?
We'll need to get specialist medical expert evidence to confirm this is the case. Hearing loss for example could be caused by a combination of old age and working conditions while an illness such as mesothelioma usually has an indisputable direct causal link to asbestos. The medical experts we use will be able to distinguish how each illness is caused and what percentage was caused by your working conditions if appropriate.
- How can you prove that I was exposed to harmful substances many years ago?
This is particularly pertinent to asbestosis and mesothelioma cases where the symptoms take many decades to emerge. We rely heavily on medical records where available and witness statements to prove what happened in the past. There are seldom any documents concerning work practices several decades ago so the courts are perfectly willing to accept the evidence given in witness statements. In most of the mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease cases we have handled, statements given by the victim themselves, their friends, family and former work mates have proved to be compelling and convincing evidence.
- How long will it take?
It is very difficult to give a definitive figure because every case depends on the circumstances. In serious cases such as mesothelioma we can "fast track" cases through the court using a special system for dealing with urgent cases which typically takes around six months or less from start to finish.
We are determined to do our utmost to settle a case as soon as possible after being instructed. Sometimes things can move more slowly than everyone would prefer if, for example, there are complications in tracing the insurers of past employers. We spare no effort to get your case finished as quickly as possible and make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
- How much will making a claim cost me?
We provide free initial legal advice to all of our clients who have suffered from an industrial disease or illness. There are a number of different ways to fund your claim including No Win No Fee. Which funding option you choose will depend on your individual circumstances and the facts of your case
- Is my employer likely to dismiss me if I make a claim against them?
If you were to make a claim against your current employer, provided they had the relevant insurance, any compensation pay out would be made by the insurer, not the employer. That's why employers take out insurance in order to decrease their chances of liability against illnesses which have resulted from working conditions. There are also legal safeguards to protect employees from unfair dismissal or recrimination. An employer must provide justification for terminating an individual's employment. We have a dedicated team of specialist employment advisors who will be able to advise you on this in the unlikely event this did occur.
- Is there a time limit on bringing a claim?
Yes. Generally speaking you have three years from the date your illness becomes apparent or you were first diagnosed with the illness and you became aware that it was caused by your working conditions to make a claim.
Where somebody has died as a result of an industrial disease, the three years typically runs from the date of death. In all circumstances it is advisable to seek legal advice as soon as possible. In certain circumstances it is possible to ask the court to let your claim proceed despite the fact that it is over three years since you were diagnosed.
- The company I worked for has gone out of business, can I still claim?
Yes, even if your employer has gone out of business you could still make a claim because the majority of claims are made against the employer's insurers, not the company itself. This is important because court rulings have decreed that it is the company which insured your employer at the time of your exposure to a hazardous substance such as asbestos that is liable to pay compensation. The law says that it's possible to bring an employer back into legal existence in order to claim against them if their insurers can be identified.
Alternatively, the firm you worked for may be continuing to trade under a different name or may have merged with another company which can be sued instead. We have extensive experience and proven success investigating the corporate history of companies and locating insurers.
- What if I don't work for the employer any more?
Just because you no longer work for an employer doesn't mean you can't claim against that employer. What's relevant is proving that your employer at the time did not fulfil their duty of care towards you and that you were exposed to hazardous material like asbestos or loud and excessive noises during your period of employment with that employer.
- What if my employer provided safety equipment but I still get an industrial disease?
It is the duty of your employer to provide you with relevant equipment which has been assessed for health and safety purposes. Provision is only half the story however and the employer also has a duty to inform employees about how and when they should wear that equipment. If you request further information or training from your employer about the health risks involved in the work you are doing, they must comply with your request.
So even if you were provided with relevant safety equipment, you could still have a claim with the proviso that it might not have been compulsory to actually wear it or you received no training or instruction in its use. Any equipment provided must also be suitable for its purpose and compatible with any other personal protective equipment that is provided.
- Will I have to attend a medical appointment?
It is helpful to be examined by an independent doctor and that can be done in your own home if you wish, but where the victim is particularly ill, or it is difficult to travel or indeed if the victim has died we often ask medical experts to prepare a report based on medical records.