Bad guys …. and victims

Older man looking to camera

This article first appeared in the Spring 2014 Asbestos Action Tayside newsletter 

Disease caused by asbestos exposure is preventable

The dangers of asbestos dust have been known about for over a century, but despite this many workers continued to be exposed to this danger, in various industries, well into the 1990s. 

It is a fundamental legal principle that employers should take reasonable care for their workers. Where they fail to take reasonable steps to protect workers, or reduce the risk of exposure to dangerous substances, they are negligent. 

Anyone who has suffered loss or injury in such circumstances is entitled to seek compensation to reflect their loss. Most employers have insurance to meet such claims. Many businesses grow rich on the sweat and labour of their workforce, and it is only right that where they have behaved badly, put profit before welfare, and failed to reasonably protect their workers, they and their insurers, should pay for the damage their negligence has caused.

Accordingly, it is with considerable relief on the part of those representing Mesothelioma victims that news of the government’s decision not to pursue a “reform agenda” proposed by the Association of British Insurers, as part of the recent Mesothelioma Consultation, has been met.  The proposals were based upon misconceptions about the existing claims process and used selective and unrepresentative quotes from distressed Mesothelioma sufferers.  The proposals would have seen control over the claims process passed from the victim to those representing the wrong doer.

Insurers of negligent employers do not pay compensation because they want to.  They are required legally to do so.  The amount of compensation is determined by the extent of the loss, injury and damage the defender’s negligent behaviour has caused.  Insurers will rarely make early offers of compensation which properly reflect a victim’s loss. It is only by ensuring cases are properly presented and quantified, by specialist solicitors, often within the framework of a court action, that early, just and reasonable compensation can be recovered.

The fight to secure just compensation also extends to those diagnosed with other asbestos conditions, including lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural thickening or pleural plaques.  All of these conditions, if arising from negligent asbestos exposure, may be compensatable in Scotland.

It is important to seek legal advice as soon as a diagnosis is made. Failure to pursue a legal remedy within three years of the  date of diagnosis, even if the diagnosis is only one of pleural plaques, could result in the loss of the right to pursue a later claim for compensation in the event of diagnosis of a more serious asbestos exposure condition.

It is accordingly essential that anyone whose life is affected by asbestos has early access to specialist legal advice. Asbestos Action can arrange for anyone concerned about the consequences of asbestos exposure to receive independent and confidential legal advice by contacting their help line on 01382 225715.

Fraser Simpson, Partner and Head of Industrial Disease at Digby Brown Solicitors.