Asbestos related claims for compensation in NI

Asbestos related claims for compensation in Northern Ireland

9th February, 2023

Diseases related to asbestos affect many thousands of people every year. Diagnosis of asbestos related diseases can occur many years after an initial exposure to it but this does not mean that you are not entitled to make a claim for compensation. We have set out below some of the most frequent queries we hear regarding asbestos related claims.

What is asbestos?

It is a group of naturally occurring minerals made of microscopic fibres.

What was asbestos used for?

Asbestos has insulation and fire protection qualities and was used in many industries between 1950’s – 1980’s. These industries were primarily based in construction, manufacturing and ship building and asbestos was often mixed with cement or other fabrics and mats and used in lagging material, cement products and paint.

Are there different types of asbestos?

Yes - there are 3 types of asbestos and all can cause disease:

  • White asbestos used in the construction industry to insulate pipes.
  • Brown asbestos used mainly in cement sheets, ceiling/floor tiles and pipe insulation.
  • Blue asbestos used in railways to insulate engines and in pipe insulation.

Why is asbestos so dangerous?

All asbestos becomes dangerous when released into the air. When asbestos fibres are breathed into our lungs or swallowed they can cause asbestos related diseases. Asbestos products are now largely banned.

What are asbestos related diseases?

There are a number of specific diseases related to asbestos exposure:

  • Asbestosis – a chronic respiratory disease, sometimes called pneumoconiosis or institial pulmonary fibrosis. Asbestosis may take many years after exposure to develop.
  • Mesothelioma – a type of cancer affecting the membrane lining the lungs, abdominal cavity or around the heart. Symptoms may not develop until decades after the initial exposure to asbestos.
  • Pleural thickening – scar tissue forms around the membrane lining the lungs, leading to chest pain and breathing difficulties.
  • Lung cancer – cancer of the lungs caused by asbestos fibres.

What are the legal obligations of an employer?

Employers are under a duty to their employees to provide a safe working environment. They must ensure that they protect you against health risks and do not expose you to dangerous substances which may adversely affect your health now and in the future. They are under a duty to provide employees with personal protective equipment. Employers have to carry out risk assessments to determine the nature of any risks that employees are exposed to in the workplace. There are now very specific legislative provisions relating to asbestos, its use and how it is removed.

What should I do if I believe I have an asbestos related disease?

You should immediately see a solicitor. Before you do, you should prepare a statement setting out your employment history, where and when you think you were exposed to asbestos, when you began to develop symptoms and what medical treatment you have undergone (and where) since then.

Your solicitor will then advise you on who is likely to be liable for your asbestos related disease and what medical evidence will have to be obtained. Your medical records will be a necessity before an expert in asbestos related disease is instructed to prepare a report.

I was exposed to asbestos many years ago but the disease is only evident now – can I still make a claim for compensation?

Yes. Normally in personal injury law, a claimant has three years from the date of an incident that led to the claim to bring a case (lawyers call this the limitation period). In asbestos related disease claims the exposure to asbestos often takes place over a period of time and many years before disease becomes apparent.  Indeed, the time between exposure and the appearance of disease is normally at least ten years but typically longer. In such cases, the three year limitation period begins from the date of diagnosis of the asbestos related disease (or earlier if the connection between  symptoms and asbestos exposure has been made) and not from the date of the original exposure. If someone dies as a result of asbestos exposure the three year period normally runs from the date of death.

Time limits and limitation periods can be difficult to assess in asbestos related disease claims. There may be exceptions to the rule that allow cases that appear “out of time” to proceed. The best advice is not to delay and seek legal advice immediately.

The employer I worked for has gone out of business/no longer exists. Can I still bring a compensation claim?

Yes, although it can be more difficult. All employers are required to carry employer liability insurance to cover this type of injury and if we can find the insurer of the now defunct company, they can still be pursued for compensation.

I worked in a building that had roofing with asbestos content and have now developed an asbestos related disease. Do I have a claim for compensation?

Yes, if you can show that your disease process was related to the asbestos in your workplace. Both the owner/occupier of the building and your employer could have a liability to you.

Some years ago, my husband worked in an industry that used asbestos and he would often come home covered in dust. I used to clean his work clothing. I have now developed an asbestos related disease. Can I bring a claim for compensation against my husband’s employers?

Yes. We call this secondary exposure and if you can prove the link then you should have a claim for compensation.

What compensation will I receive?

This will depend on the nature of your asbestos related disease and your financial loss. It will include:

  • Compensation for your disease. The amount depends on how serious your disease is and if you will recover from it.
  • All your medical expenses, now and into the future.
  • Any loss of earnings, now and into the future.
  • The costs of any adaptions to your home or car because of your injuries.
  • Any care costs that have been or will be incurred because of your injuries.
  • Any other expenses.

Why Kearney Law?

We at the Kearney Law Group are ready to assist you and have the knowledge and expertise you need to make a successful claim for compensation. We have an expert team ready to deal with asbestos related diseases.  We will advise you on the options available to you swiftly and professionally and ensure you recover proper compensation for your loss.

We only do personal injury law and are experts at it.

For further assistance please ring us at 02890 912 938 or email us on [email protected] or fill in our contact form

The content of this blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice. No solicitor/client relationship or duty of care or liability of any nature shall exist or arise between the Kearney Law Group and you and we refer you to our disclaimer on our website.

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Belfast, BT1 6JH

TEL: 02890 912 938

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26-28 Bishop Street,
Derry, BT48 6PR

TEL: 02871 362 299

Kearney Law Group specialises in legal services relating to Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence. We are committed to achieving the best results for our clients.

Contact us today to arrange your FREE initial consultation relating to any of the above matters.

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