Occupational Disease: Mesothelioma
In her latest blog, Stacy Williams investigates Mesothelioma and explains what is involved in bringing a personal injury claim.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lungs and the abdomen.
It is a cancer of the mesothelial cells which cover the outer surface of most of our internal organs. The cells form a lining that is called the mesothelium. This is where the cancer gets its name.
How is Mesothelioma caused?
Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, a group of minerals made of microscopic fibres that used to be widely used in the construction industry.
These tiny fibres can easily get in the lungs. It can take as little as one speck of asbestos dust to cause Mesothelioma. The use of asbestos is now banned.
It can often take 20 or more years after the exposure to asbestos for any obvious symptoms to come to light, which is why bringing a Mesothelioma claim can be tricky.
Bringing a Mesothelioma claim
If you have been exposed to asbestos dust and are diagnosed with Mesothelioma, then you may be entitled to bring a claim in personal injury.
There are many different situations where you may be able to bring a Mesothelioma claim, these include;-
- Exposure during the course of your employment.
- Exposure from living, working, attending school or regularly being near to a factory using asbestos.
- Exposure through washing asbestos contaminated clothing of a family member or living with someone who worked with asbestos.
This is not an exhaustive list of situations for which you can bring a Mesothelioma claim. If you were exposed to asbestos dust in another situation or circumstance, then there may still be grounds to bring a Mesothelioma claim.
Proving a Mesothelioma claim
Identifying the Defendant is the first step in proving a Mesothelioma claim.
So often in Mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease claims the company or employer no longer exists, often due to the passage of time. However, so long as there is an identifiable employer or insurance company, then you can bring a claim.
If there are more than 1 or 2 employers that could be liable for the exposure to asbestos then Burnetts would pursue a claim against all employers who could be liable.
Proving that the sufferer was employed by the Defendant using witness evidence and/or documents such as a HMRC Employment History.
Quite often the sufferer will have had a number of different employers during the time that they were exposed to asbestos.
You must prove that sufferer was exposed to asbestos dust during the employment using witness evidence from the sufferer and others.
Solicitors rely heavily upon witness evidence in Mesothelioma claims as the date of exposure can be 20-30 years ago. Ideally, a witness statement is required from the sufferer, however in cases where the suffered has died prior to the bringing a claim, Burnetts would seek to gather witness evidence from co-workers and family members.
Breach of Duty. You must prove that the Defendant exposed the sufferer to asbestos at the relevant time.
Causation. You must prove that the exposure caused the Mesothelioma. Burnetts would do this by obtaining independent medical evidence from a Respiratory Expert.
Valuation. Assess the value of the Mesothelioma claim.
What Burnetts will do for you
If the above elements are satisfied Burnetts will do the following;-
- Once there has been a diagnosis of Mesothelioma, Burnetts will be sure to establish that there was a breach of duty.
- We will obtain a full history from the sufferer and take a witness statement. No matter what stage the Mesothelioma diagnosis is at, we will endeavour to get a first-hand witness statement.
- We will obtain witness evidence from any colleagues, friends or family members who can account for the exposure to asbestos.
- We will apply for a full employment history from the HMRC.
- We will obtain medical evidence from a respiratory expert/chest physician.
- We will strive to settle the claim during the sufferer’s lifetime.
How long do you have to bring a Mesothelioma Claim?
There is a three year limitation period on Mesothelioma claims. The three years typically runs from the date of diagnosis. However it may be earlier than this if you have already identified a connection between your symptoms and what caused them, this is known as the date of knowledge.
Where somebody has died as a result of Mesothelioma, the three years typically runs from the date of death.
Some Courts have a fast-track system for Mesothelioma cases where the sufferer is still alive. This is to ensure that they get dealt with promptly during the course of their life.
Some industrial diseases, such as Mesothelioma, mean that you are entitled to claim State benefits as well as bringing a legal Mesothelioma claim.
Burnetts will advise anyone bringing a Mesothelioma claim to apply for one of the following:
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Pneumoconiosis Workers Compensation Scheme
- Mesothelioma Act 2014
- Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme
Others may be entitled to:
- Disability Living Allowance
- Constant Attendance Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
Bringing a Mesothelioma Claim on Behalf of a Loved One
Unfortunately, many Mesothelioma claims are brought on behalf of someone who has died before they have had a chance to bring a claim. You can bring a claim on behalf of the deceased’s Estate or as a dependency claim. A dependency claim is where you will have been financially dependent on the deceased.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma and you think you have a personal injury claim please contact a member of our Medical Negligence and Serious Injury Team on 0191 300 1833.
Burnetts also has a Wills, Probate and Trusts team who can assist with obtaining a grant of probate if necessary.
About the Author
Stacy Williams is a Paralegal in the Medical Negligence and Serious Injury team.
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