We often hear about people who were exposed to asbestos at work many years ago and have now been diagnosed with an asbestos condition. However, it is not just people who worked with asbestos that are blighted by asbestos diseases.

What is secondary exposure to asbestos?

When asbestos use was at its height between the 1950s and 1980s, employees would work all day in dusty environments. They would then return home to their families covered in asbestos dust and accidentally expose them to the danger. Deadly asbestos dust and fibres would often cover workers’ clothes, hair and skin. When they returned home, the dust would easily spread throughout the household.

Examples of secondary exposure

  • A worker returns home covered in asbestos dust and hugs his young son. His son unknowingly breathes in the asbestos dust on his father’s clothes. He has experienced secondary exposure.
  • A wife washes her husband’s asbestos-covered work clothes daily or weekly. Moving or shaking the clothes causes the dust to be released into the atmosphere. The wife subsequently breathes this dust in. She has experienced secondary exposure.

Sadly, you only need to be exposed to a small number of asbestos fibres to be at risk of developing mesothelioma. This is an insidious cancer which attacks the lining of the organs – most commonly, the lungs or abdomen. On average, mesothelioma develops between 10 and 50 years after someone has been exposed to asbestos.

Claiming compensation for mesothelioma if you worked with asbestos

For workers who develop mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos, there are a number of options for claiming compensation. They can:

  1. Make a civil compensation claim: If the employer who exposed you to asbestos is still trading, or if insurance can be traced for the period of employment, a civil compensation claim can be made.
  2. Claim under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme (DMPS): This is a government scheme for workers whose employer is no longer trading, and their insurance cannot be traced.
  3. Claim under the 2008 Mesothelioma Scheme: This is a government scheme for workers who were self-employed when they were exposed to asbestos.

Claiming compensation for mesothelioma if you have secondary exposure to asbestos:

If you have been exposed to asbestos through secondary exposure, and develop mesothelioma, there are two ways for you to claim compensation. You can:

  1. Make a civil compensation claim – As with workers, you can make a civil compensation claim if the company who caused the exposure to asbestos is still trading. However, if the company is no longer trading, it is more difficult to pursue a civil compensation claim.

This is because when we help workers to claim mesothelioma compensation, we trace the employer’s liability insurance that the company had when the person was employed.

However, with secondary exposure claims, we have to trace the public liability insurance that the company had when the person developed symptoms of mesothelioma. 

Sadly, in most cases this is impossible, because the person may have been exposed to asbestos in the 1960s or 70s, and the company has since closed down. If the person does not develop mesothelioma symptoms until 2017, there is no chance of the company having public liability insurance which covers this period.

Example scenario

Tom worked for Company A between 1962 and 1971, where he was exposed to asbestos. The company closed down in 1985.

In 2016, Tom develops mesothelioma. He decides to make a claim for mesothelioma compensation, and we take his case on. Thankfully, we are able to trace employer’s liability insurance covering the period 1960 to 1975, and can successfully make a claim. Tom receives his compensation.

Tom’s wife washed his clothes throughout the 1970s, and was also exposed to asbestos as a result. Sadly, she develops mesothelioma in 2018 and, following her husband’s experience, also would like to make a compensation claim. Sadly, we cannot pursue a claim for Tom’s wife because the company has no public liability insurance in 2018, as they closed in 1985. Tom’s wife is unable to pursue a civil compensation claim for mesothelioma.

Thankfully, we are able to recover some compensation for Tom’s wife under the 2008 Mesothelioma scheme instead, as discussed below.

  1. Make a claim under the 2008 Mesothelioma Scheme – If you are not able to make a civil compensation claim, and you were not exposed to asbestos at work, we can help you to claim under this government scheme.

Should you try and make a civil compensation claim?

As there is a government scheme for mesothelioma claims, many people do not think it is worth trying to make a civil claim for asbestos compensation. However, we would always advise you to try and make a civil claim. The amount of compensation you will receive from a civil claim will be much more than you would receive under the 2008 Mesothelioma Scheme.

Of course, the amount you receive in mesothelioma compensation varies from case to case. It can depend on a number of factors including:

  • how old you are when you are diagnosed;
  • whether you are still working;
  • what care you require, etc.

How can we help?

If you require help to pursue an asbestos compensation claim please contact us today on 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, you can speak to us through livechat or head over to our contact page and fill in the form.

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