Mesothelioma Compensation Claims

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is generally caused by exposure to asbestos. Cancer developes in the protective lining that covers many of the bodies internal organs. The most commonly affected area is the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall, known as the pleura. It can also occur in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), the heart, the sac that surround the heart (pericardium) or tunica vaginalis.

The majority of people who develop mesothelioma are those who have come into contact with asbestos most likely during work, or have been exposed to asbestos dust or fibres in other ways. Close relatives of people who have come into contact with asbestos are also known to have developed meothelioma due to particles being transferred via clothing. Mesothelioma has been known to develop in people who have not been exposed to asbestos, but it is widely acknowledged that asbestos is the major cause of this type of cancer.

If you have developed mesothelioma and think it can attributed to asbestos exposure you may be eligible for compensation. This can be done in two ways, either by benefits paid to you by the government and/or by suing your employer for the period for which you were exposed to asbestos.

Benefits paid by the government

If you are suffering from an asbestos related illness, the main benefit available is the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. This is paid as a regular weekly allowance, and is paid to people who have mesothelioma and can attribute it to exposure to asbestos. The work may not have involved actually handling asbestos, but may have been done in a location with higher than normal levels of asbestos in the air. If you were self employed at the time of exposure, you will not qualify for this benefit.

To find out if you are eligible for benefits, ring the Department for Work and Pensions Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 882 200. If any benefits are awarded, they will start from the date of your call. It is recommended you keep copies of all forms, letters or queries you sent or received from your Benefit Agency, and make a note of the name of the person you have spoken to over the phone. It is useful to have your national insurance number available.

If you have come into contact with asbestos while working for the Armed Forces, contacts your local War Pensions Agency to find out if you can claim for your illness.

Compensation from employers

If you have developed mesothelioma and have been exposed to asbestos as a result of working, you should consider getting legal advice from a solicitor, as you may be able to bring a civil law personal injury claim for compensation from the employer. Mesothelioma cases are very specialised, and it is worth contacting a specialist in the area. Your trade union, or the Law Society (0870 606 2555) will be able to put you in contact with a specialist solicitor.

In order to make a successful claim, you will need to show that your mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos. In some cases this can be difficult to prove, and so the legal phrase is that 'on the balance of probabilities' the exposure caused the condition. This means that it was more than likely the condition was caused by exposure to asbestos. You will also need to prove your employer was negligent by not keeping up safety standard required by common law.

Claims for mesothelioma must be made within three years of the first "date of knowledge" of the illness. If the company has gone out of business, you may be able to make a claim against the companies insurers. If they no longer provide cover and your solicitor has advised you have no real chance of claiming compensation, it may be possible to get compensation from the government under the Pneumoconiosis Worker's Compensation Act of 1979. If the claim is successful, it provides a lump sum of cash in addition to the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit paid by the government as detailed above.