Warner Goodman Solicitors banner

Asbestos and Mesothelioma claims

Studies in recent years have shown that Hampshire has a higher than average mortality rate for those diagnosed with mesothelioma, particularly in Fareham and Eastleigh.  This fatal illness can take years to be diagnosed as symptoms can appear many years after exposure to asbestos.  We know that if you have been diagnosed with, or you are concerned you have, mesothelioma you will have a number of questions about the future, and our experienced Mesothelioma team can help you answer those here.

What is asbestosis?

There are a number of different asbestos related lung diseases. Once asbestos is disturbed and the fibres are inhaled, these can cause scarring and thickening of the tissue in the lungs, restricting the ability of the lungs to function properly and allow oxygen to reach the blood stream. It can take many years for the symptoms of asbestos related lung diseases to develop and can range from mild to severe.

Asbestosis is a serious lung condition that is caused by exposure to asbestos. The severity of the disease increases with the level and the duration of the exposure to asbestos.

What are the symptoms of asbestosis?

The primary symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath; other symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Tightness in the chest
  • A persistent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
  • Fatigue or extreme tiredness
  • Pain in the chest or shoulder
  • In some cases, clubbed or swollen fingertips may also occur.

It can be difficult to identify whether these symptoms could be indicative of asbestosis or another illness, so consulting your doctor when you spot these signs and you suspect that you have been in contact with asbestos is crucial to obtain a formal diagnosis and discuss your treatment options.  Diagnosis of asbestosis is usually secured through X-rays, CT scans and lung function tests.

It is also important to remember that these symptoms will take many years to develop and so could still indicate asbestosis even if you left a former employer over 20 or 30 years ago.

What is the treatment for asbestosis?

While asbestosis is incurable, the symptoms can be treated or alleviated.

Treatment can include surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.  A doctor will be able to discuss the best option for you to improve your quality of life, which may include pulmonary rehabilitation, chest percussion, medications such as morphine or steroids, or inhalers.  Depending on the severity of the scarring on your lungs, surgery may be an option to remove the scar tissue.

A doctor will also recommend that you quit smoking and have the relevant flu vaccinations to support your vulnerable lungs.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.

While there are a number of different types of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma is the most common, accounting for between 90% and 95% of cases of mesothelioma in the UK. 

Over 2,600 people are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma in the UK, mainly in those aged 60 to 80 years old due to the number of years it can take for symptoms to develop.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

Many of the symptoms of this disease are similar to other illnesses, and so it can lie undetected.  The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain in your lower back or in the side of your chest 
  • Coughing and shortness of breath
  • Fever and excessive sweating
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Complications in your throat, such as difficulty swallowing and a hoarse voice
  • Swelling, mainly in the face and arms

It is crucial to consult your GP if you develop any of these symptoms and believe you may have been exposed to asbestos.

Diagnosis and prognosis of mesothelioma

As mesothelioma develops it damages the lungs, reducing their ability to function adequately.  If mesothelioma is detected a number of tests will be conducted to ascertain the severity of the cancer and whether it has spread.  The stage of the cancer will determine the prognosis and while there is no cure for the cancer there are treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy that could extend life expectancy.  Mesothelioma unfortunately is an aggressive cancer, and at present the life expectancy following diagnosis is between 12 to 18 months, even though there are cases of patients who surpass this.

What should I do after a mesothelioma diagnosis?

We know that after receiving your diagnosis, you will be feeling many varying emotions.  While everyone will respond differently, it is likely that you will be feeling scared, uncertain about the future, angry, upset and shocked. 

We can help you through these emotions and establish whether you may have a claim for compensation that can improve your quality of life.  We can put you in contact with the medical experts and support organisations that will work with us during your claim.

Before taking this step, we understand that there will be a significant amount of information for you to consider, including:

  • Medical advice – you will wish to discuss with your doctor how you can manage your symptoms and understand how your life will change due to the effects mesothelioma will take on your body.
  • Support groups or counselling – talking to other people in a similar situation will help you come to terms with your diagnosis.
  • Your ongoing care – it may be that you require care support at home from a local nursing service to assist you and your loved ones, or alterations may be required to assist your life while you remain in your own home. 
  • Financial matters – you will need to make plans for the future financial support of your family and research the possible benefits that may be available to you.

When you are ready to address the question of compensation, contact us.  There are several stages involved in making a claim which can take some time to navigate through.  There are time limits involved in making a claim of this nature, which is three years from diagnosis.  This is why it is crucial to seek legal advice as soon as possible to allow enough time to establish a claim and gather the necessary information. 

Who is most at risk of developing asbestosis or mesothelioma?

While anyone could be at risk from exposure to asbestos, there are certain industries that will be more at risk than others.  It is important to remember however, that the danger only arises from exposure when the asbestos is disturbed. 

The use of asbestos may be banned, however there are existing buildings and environments where it still exists, meaning you are most likely to be exposed if you work, or did work, in the following industries:

  • construction (particularly between the 1970s and 1990s),
  • plastering,
  • demolition,
  • dock and ship yards,
  • electrician,
  • mining, 
  • manufacturing,
  • plumbing.

Other professions such as teachers or hospital workers could be at risk due to the levels of asbestos used in schools and hospitals during their construction. 

Asbestos and mesothelioma can also be caused by secondary exposure, for example if your family members are exposed to fibres on work clothes or shoes.

What is the process for making a claim for mesothelioma?

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, while there is no cure, it is important that you receive the support you need, whether that is financially, emotionally or through access to professionals who can support your family, for example palliative care.  Making a claim for compensation can provide you and your family with this support.

There are several steps to making a claim for compensation, and the first is to give us a call.  We offer a free initial meeting either in our offices or at your home, and work on a no win no fee basis.

We will discuss with you the full history of your employment to see if we can discover where you may be have been exposed to asbestos, or whether it could be due to secondary exposure.  It is at this stage where we will also discuss your medical history and your general health.  These discussions may be uncomfortable and upsetting for you and your family, but they are important for our understanding to achieve the best result we can for you.  We will take care of the necessary paperwork to give you access to the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefits.

Once we have details of your history, we will arrange for you to be seen by a consultant respiratory expert who can answer any queries about your diagnosis and the treatment options available.  We will then write to the necessary organisations to have access to your formal medical records and also records of your employment.  We will begin the investigation in to where you may have been exposed to asbestos; liaising with your previous employers and insurers to inform them of the possible claim against them, and any further correspondence or negotiations to try to settle out of Court.

If we are not able to do this, we will proceed to Court.  Rest assured, we will continue to shoulder any worries and concerns you may have, and traditionally mesothelioma claims are fast tracked due to the nature of the disease.

Can I bring a claim for asbestosis or mesothelioma if my employer no longer exists?

If your employer is no longer in existence, there are still options for you to have access to compensation. 

All employers are legally obliged to hold insurance that covers them if an employee is injured at work and this includes industrial and occupational diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.  If your employer no longer exists, it may be that we are able to trace the insurer for that employer as these policies remain valid even if the company ceases trading, or an alternative organisation to assume responsibility. 

If this is also not possible, the Mesothelioma Act 2013 allows a claim to be made, as long as the claim would be likely to be successful if the employer or insurer were traceable, and that the diagnosis was made after 25 July 2012.

Your Mesothelioma team 

Catriona Ralls and Deborah Foundling form our Industrial Disease team and have helped many people gain compensation for the following industrial diseases, in addition to mesothelioma and other occupational chest-related and industrial diseases:

  • Lung cancer,
  • Non-malignant lung and pleural disorders, including:
    • asbestosis,
    • pleural thickening,
    • pleural effusions.

We know this will be a difficult time for you and your loved ones, and we are here to help and support you.  To talk to our Mesothelioma team today call 0800 91 92 30, or email injuryteamenquiry@warnergoodman.co.uk. You can also discover how much compensation you could potentially receive by using our Personal Injury Compensation Calculator.

To speak to one of our experts please call us

A very caring and confidential company.