At Asbestos Justice we speak to people who have developed illnesses after being exposed to asbestos at work every day. These illnesses, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural thickening, can take between 10 and 50 years to arise. Despite the passage of time, there are many ways that we can help these people to get the compensation they deserve. We can often find out where the sufferer has worked and – even if the company which exposed them to asbestos has closed down – can frequently claim compensation through insurance companies.

If there is no insurance cover available, there are also many government schemes available to ex-workers which provide compensation.

Unfortunately, the same access to compensation does not exist for victims of ‘secondary exposure’ to asbestos. We believe that the victims of secondary exposure are losing out, despite suffering from the same horrific symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses.

What is secondary exposure?

Secondary exposure is when a person has been exposed to asbestos in an indirect way. For example, many workers used to come home with their overalls, skin, hair and nails covered in asbestos dust. When these overalls came in to contact with a loved one (for example, through hugging), the loved one would also be exposed to the asbestos. This is referred to as ‘secondary exposure.’ Many wives may have been responsible for washing their husband’s overalls and so were contaminated with asbestos this way.

There are also known historical cases of children who lived near to asbestos factories being exposed. This is because asbestos factories released asbestos dust into the surrounding environment. Due to this dust children may have been exposed as they played in their gardens, school playgrounds and outside play areas. This is also classed as secondary, or environmental, exposure to asbestos.

We have spoken to many people who have developed illnesses due to secondary asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, in many of these cases, we have been unable to help them pursue a formal asbestos claim due to the difficulties we face when locating insurance.

Why is it more difficult to pursue compensation for those suffering from secondary exposure?

When workers develop illnesses after being exposed to asbestos we trace the employer’s liability insurance which covers the period that the worker was employed and exposed to asbestos. There is a database called the Employer’s Liability Tracing Office (ELTO) which makes this easier. In most cases we can locate the insurance and pursue a claim.

However, for those suffering following secondary exposure we must locate public liability insurance cover instead. To make this more complicated, we must locate the insurance that was in place when the asbestos related condition started to develop, not when the client was exposed to the asbestos. For example, for mesothelioma it is generally accepted that a mesothelioma tumour begins to grow ten years before symptoms and diagnosis. Therefore, we must trace the insurance for this time.

This is problematic because people are generally exposed to asbestos a long time before they develop the symptoms of an asbestos-related illness. If the company was no longer trading ten years before the symptoms emerge or condition develops, then no public liability insurance will exist. Without insurance or an active company to pursue, we cannot pursue an asbestos compensation claim.

Our experience:

Very sadly, we were unable to help a lady pursue asbestos compensation recently.

We had previously pursued an asbestos claim for her husband, who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos at work. We managed to get asbestos compensation for him shortly before he passed away.

Two years after her husband’s claim, tragedy struck again. The lady contacted us and told us she too had been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Whilst she had never worked with asbestos herself, she had washed her husband’s clothes which were covered in the substance. Unfortunately, we could not help her as the company her husband worked for had closed down many years earlier and so there was no public liability insurance.

What compensation schemes exist for workers but not secondary exposure victims?

For workers exposed to asbestos, there are many government schemes to help them get compensation even if the company they worked for had no insurance.

For those exposed to asbestos at work, and diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS). This scheme was introduced in 2014. The amounts paid tend to be comparable to the sums mesothelioma sufferers would receive by pursuing a civil asbestos claim. Mesothelioma sufferers may be paid between £87,061 and £271,120, depending on their age. The younger the claimant, the higher the amount they are likely to receive.

For those exposed to asbestos at work and diagnosed with asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer, or diffuse pleural thickening, there is the Pneumoconiosis (Worker’s Compensation) Act 1979 scheme. Payments through this scheme are based on the level of disability caused by the asbestos-related condition.

Comparatively, there is little available for secondary exposure victims. The only government scheme (to be used if the company no longer trades) is the 2008 Mesothelioma Scheme. This offers a one-off governmental scheme payment. The amount to be paid again depends on the age of the sufferer at the time of their diagnosis. Payments can range from £13,590 to £87,473. In comparison to the average of £153,531 that ex-workers receive, this is only a small amount.

It is clear that people who are unfortunate enough to develop mesothelioma due to secondary exposure are losing out.

Why should secondary exposure victims get an equal amount of compensation to ex-workers?

Sadly, mesothelioma is an incurable cancer. Treatment can help improve the quality and length of the sufferer’s life, but there is no known cure. It is an awful condition which is known to be particularly painful. Of course, no amount of compensation can make up for the pain and suffering that the patient and their family may endure.

However, compensation can help them to make the most of the time they have left. The compensation may help them:

  • Go for a final holiday.
  • Pay for care and aids at home, or specialist medical treatment.
  • To be reassured that their loved ones will be looked after once they are gone.

Asbestos compensation claims are not just about money, they’re about achieving justice. People who are suffering from an asbestos condition, through no fault of their own, feel they have been wronged. Despite the dangers being well known, workers were negligently exposed to asbestos for decades. For years, profits were wrongly put above the health of workers and their families. Therefore, for many, pursuing an asbestos compensation claim can bring closure.

Do you need help? Contact us:

We help clients every year claim asbestos compensation. If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos compensation claim, please contact us today. You can call our Freephone number on: 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, you can head over to our contact us page, complete the form and we will be in touch.

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