Can I make a second asbestos compensation claim?
Asbestos lawyers are often asked by potential clients “I have had a previous award for damages for pleural plaques or thickening – now my asbestos disease has deteriorated – can I make a second asbestos compensation claim?”
The initial reply provided by the lawyer tends to be “potentially”.
Asbestos diseases generally have the scope for deteriorating over time. This could take a year, or 20 years, and is very difficult to predict. The symptoms of breathlessness get worse and, in some cases, may develop into a fatal asbestos condition (such as mesothelioma) which means there could be scope for a second asbestos compensation claim.
In the 1980s and 1990s campaigns were brought by trade unions, such as the TGWU and GMB, to screen Ministry of Defence dockyard workers for asbestos related pleural plaques. In most cases, there would be no symptoms, save for evidence of scar tissue on the lungs caused by the exposure to asbestos, but it led to significant anxiety that it would lead to a more serious illness. This was big business as mobile chest X-ray machines were brought into the workplace specifically for this purpose. Many workers at this time received compensation on the basis they only had the asymptomatic pleural plaques and nothing more serious. Awards tended to be between £3,000 and £18,000 which was a significant sum at the time.
This all changed in 2007 as pleural plaques claims were held by the House of Lords to no longer be actionable, following the case of Rothwell Chemical and Insulating Ltd. They were found to be merely evidence of exposure to asbestos. As symptomless, the fear and anxiety caused by the awareness of plaques was not actionable because there was no initial damage from which to compute this loss. Thus, from this date in England and Wales (not Scotland), pleural plaques claims ceased.
So, if you brought a claim for pleural plaques or pleural thickening, and have now developed a more serious illness, such as serious thickening or fibrosis, asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma, can you make a second asbestos compensation claim?
The answer to this is dependent on the terms of how your previous case was settled.
If you settled your claim on a “provisional damages basis” then you should be able to re-open the case and begin a second asbestos compensation claim. The court order you received should specify what particular diseases, such as those listed above, would allow the case to be re-activated if they occurred in one’s lifetime.
If however, your case is settled on a “full and final basis”, it normally takes into account all the injuries and losses at the current time and those which may occur in the future. This generally means you cannot return for further compensation if your disease deteriorates, and normally no second asbestos compensation claim is possible.
Of course, things aren’t always straightforward when considering a second asbestos compensation claim and potential complications could include:
- You have no idea as to the terms of settlement of your previous case
- You have not retained any of the court or solicitors’ paperwork
- Due to the passage of time, your former solicitor is no longer in practice
- You were not advised at the time as to the provisional damages option and so settled on a full and final basis
- You had pleural plaques but were told you could not bring a claim and now your symptoms have worsened
Our specialist asbestos team can help with all of the above issues, queries regarding second asbestos compensation claims, and any other queries regarding general asbestos disease claims.
Please feel free to make contact with us if you have previously received asbestos compensation, or if you had pleural plaques and your symptoms have deteriorated over the years. You may be entitled to re-open your case for a second asbestos compensation claim.
Call the team today on 01752 203500 or email me directly via james.walsh@GAsolicitors.com.
You can also read a case study about pleural thickening exposure here.