Employers, owners of premises, manufacturers, and others, all have a general duty of care to people who work and to those that may be affected by their operations. If you are exposed to asbestos as an employee and suffer an asbestos disease or if you have been affected as a non-employee by the activities of others, you may be able to claim compensation through the courts.
If you sue someone for negligence you do so through the civil courts. You ask for compensation because you have suffered harm as a result of their negligence. Civil courts cannot punish any one who is guilty of negligence by fining them or sending them to prison, they can only order them to pay compensation. Most cases do not actually go to court, although the case might continue right up to the day of the court appearance.
If you have worked in a job where you were exposed to asbestos you will have to explain where and how you were exposed to it. You will also have to explain how your employer failed to protect you from asbestos dust. Sometimes this can be difficult since it may be many years since you worked with or came into contact with asbestos, and it can take many years for an asbestos disease to develop. However, until well into the 1970s, employers generally failed to protect their employees from asbestos dust. Even today some employers fail to adequately protect their employees and members of the public from exposure to asbestos dust.
You must start legal court proceedings to claim compensation within three years from the date that you could be expected to know that you have an asbestos disease. Do not assume it is too late after 3 years. See an experienced solicitor and get advice about this because judges have sometimes allowed cases to be brought after more than 3 years.
Money paid by the DWP in benefits is recoverable from your compensation. This money cannot be recovered from compensation paid to you for pain and suffering. If you receive compensation for loss of earnings, mobility, cost of care, the corresponding DWP benefits under these ‘heads of compensation’ will have to be repaid to the government.
If the benefits you have been paid, say for mobility, are more than the compensation you have received for mobility, your compensation for other ‘heads of damages’ cannot be reduced to make up the short fall.
Choosing a solicitor
Because asbestos cases can be complex it is essential that you have a solicitor who specialises in asbestos cases. Your asbestos support group or trades union can give information about solicitor firms experienced in asbestos related claims. When you first contact a solicitor firm don’t be afraid to ask for a home visit if necessary.
- That the solicitor specialises in asbestos cases
- How many asbestos cases the solicitor has successfully handled in the last three years
- What conditional fee agreement is being offered and will you have to pay anything
- The solicitor is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL)
- That the solicitor will keep you regularly informed of what is happening with your case
- How quickly the solicitor expects to start a court action and how long it will take