Nottingham Asbestos Claims Solicitors Serving Clients in England and Wales
Asbestos — “The Magic Mineral”!
It is ironic that a substance that has ruined so many lives was once hailed as “the magic mineral” because of its versatility. Strong, flexible, heat resistant, an excellent insulator and the only mineral that can be woven into cloth — asbestos rapidly became widely used in a broad range of products such as:
– Cement sheets, wallboards, tiles, pipes, electrical housings, work surfaces and corrugated roofs
– Textiles such as asbestos cloth used for mattresses, fire blankets, gloves, aprons, etc.
– Asbestos thread used for tape seals, friction discs used for brakes, flexible hoses
– Asbestos card, felt and board
– Raw asbestos mixed with water and other substances and sprayed on as insulation
It was even used in the 1950s in the filters of Kent cigarettes due to its excellent filtering qualities — what a shuddering irony that is!
A Very Dangerous Mineral — A Brief History
However, knowledge of the dangers of the magic mineral gradually developed. As long ago as 1898, H.M. Chief Inspector of Factories recorded that “The evil effects of asbestos dust … have been found to be injurious,” and the connection with fatal lung disease (severe pulmonary fibrosis) was established as long ago as 1900. The term “asbestosis” was first used by Dr. Cooke, an English physician, when he diagnosed the condition following an autopsy on the body of a 33-year-old asbestos textile worker in 1924.
The 1930s saw the first regulation of the asbestos industry, the first settlements of compensation claims and the first recognition that asbestos exposure caused cancer.
By 1965 the Sunday Times was carrying the front page headline “Scientists Track Down Killer Dust Disease.” This article, based upon a study published in the Journal of Industrial Medicine by Newhouse and Thompson, also highlighted the danger of secondary exposure by those living with asbestos workers or near to the factory.
From this date, at the latest, no one could deny knowledge that even small doses of asbestos dust could give rise to deadly diseases.
There are three main types of asbestos: white asbestos (called “chrysotile” — the least nasty), brown or grey asbestos (called “amosite”— nasty) and blue asbestos (called “crocidolite” — very nasty). All of them can cause disease.
Types of Asbestos Disease
Asbestos diseases seldom appear until at least 20 years after the first exposure, and frequently much longer. The types of disease associated with asbestos exposure are:
Pleural plaques: This is a form of scarring of the lungs and indicates significant asbestos exposure. However, the plaques themselves are usually non-disabling and symptomless. Consequently, apart from in Scotland, no compensation is payable for this condition.
Pleural thickening (sometimes leading to pleural effusion): This may or may not be caused by asbestos exposure, and may or may not be symptomatic. However, if symptoms do arise they can be severe, and if there is a history of significant asbestos exposure, they may be attributable to that. However, this condition may have other causes — such as surgery or infection. The risk of occurrence, extent of disease and chances of a successful claim all increase with the dose of asbestos exposure.
Asbestosis: This is a particular form of fibrosis (thickening and scarring) of the lungs caused by asbestos exposure. This may or may not be symptomatic and disabling, with any disability usually resulting in breathlessness, sometimes coughing, lung crackles and clubbing of fingers. Symptoms range from very minor to very severe. Fibrosis of the lungs has multiple causes apart from asbestos. – Asbestosis requires heavy exposure — again the risk of occurrence, extent of disease and chances of a successful claim all increase with the dose of asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma: This is a malignant tumour, usually (but not exclusively) of the lungs or stomach. Unfortunately, whilst often treated with chemotherapy and sometimes surgery, no cure has been developed and the condition is invariably fatal within 12 to 18 months of the onset of symptoms. This condition is always attributable to asbestos. The risk of contraction (but not the extent of the disease) increases with the dose of asbestos. It is not possible to determine which “fatal fibre” caused the onset — it is theoretically possible (but most unlikely) for just one fibre to cause it.
Lung cancer: Asbestos can cause all types of lung cancer, but there are other possible causes, such as smoking and other natural causes. The risk increases with the dose, and increases significantly in smokers. If asbestosis is also present then asbestos will also be the cause of the cancer. Without asbestosis, proving that asbestos was the cause is difficult and would require heavy exposure.
Who Can I Claim Against?
Employers: As asbestos diseases are usually latent for long periods of time, it often happens that former employers have ceased to exist in the meantime. It is usually possible to trace the insurers of defunct companies, and to resurrect the company itself if necessary, in order to make a claim. There have also been cases where the former directors or parent companies have been held liable.
Occupiers: If the exposure was on premises other than those of the employer then the “occupiers” of the site may be held liable.
Environmental claims: A duty is also owed to people “off-site” who may be exposed to asbestos — such as the family of the worker who takes the dust home on his clothes, or the neighbours of the factory.
Product liability: Not an easy option — but a claim against the manufacturer of the materials remains a possibility.
How Do I Make a Claim?
Paul Davis & Co solicitors specialise in pursuing personal injury and wrongful death claims, including those involving asbestos-related disease. Based in Nottingham and serving clients throughout England and Wales, we are available to discuss the matter with you free of charge and without obligation.
It is important that you make a claim as soon as possible as strict time limits apply and delay may prejudice your chances.
Most claims can be funded by a “no win no fee” agreement and legal expenses insurance so you do not need to worry about incurring costs if the claim is unsuccessful.