Mesothelioma is a cancer of the thin membrane that lines the chest and abdomen. It is almost always caused by previous exposure to asbestos fibres, most commonly through exposure to asbestos in the workplace. The cancer itself doesn’t usually develop until 20-40 years after a person is exposed to asbestos and first breathes in the asbestos dust. Asbestos is a natural mineral. It was mined from rock found in many countries and is made up of tiny fibres that are as strong as steel but can be woven like cotton and are highly resistant to heat and chemicals.
Around 2300 people each year are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy can be used to treat mesothelioma but the disease is invariably fatal with most victims dying within 18 months of diagnosis.
Workers who have used asbestos during the course of their past employment are at risk of having contracted mesothelioma. The more common industries are shipbuilders, electricians, boilermakers and laggers. These are usually workers who have been exposed to large volumes of asbestos during their working lives, therefore greatly increasing their risk of developing the disease. However, many other workers are at risk. A person does not need to have been exposed to large volumes of asbestos to be at risk of contracting mesothelioma. It is not a cumulative condition like for example, asbestosis. Limited exposure to asbestos can be enough to cause mesothelioma.
It is estimated that over 1.5 million workplace properties contain asbestos, including schools, offices and high street businesses. Employees are often unaware of the existence of asbestos until renovations or repairs are undertaken and the asbestos is disturbed which is when the risk of occupational exposure can occur.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to make a claim against your employer/former employer and also from the Government/DWP. The Courts have adopted a special procedure to deal with mesothelioma cases, which means any potential case will be dealt with a lot more quickly than other cases.
All Occupational Disease claims are subject to strict deadlines. By law, you must normally submit your claim to the court within 3 years of your condition being confirmed as linked to your employment. In relation to a claim against the Government/DWP scheme (usually for cases where there are no realistic prospects of Court action or if the employers’ insurer cannot be found), the DWP should receive notification of the claim within 12 months of diagnosis of the condition.
At Morrish Solicitors, we have extensive experience of dealing with claims arising out of exposure to asbestos and, in particular with mesothelioma claims. Please Laura Nabozny on 033 3344 9600 if the above information raises any questions or if you would like our advice about a potential claim.