The change in the law as ruled by the Supreme Court back in March 2012 gave hope to thousands of families throughout the UK who had lost a loved one as a result of asbestosis, mesothelioma or another asbestos related disease. The court ruled that liability no longer rested at the time that the symptoms showed themselves, but at the time that the individual was exposed to asbestos. Since the ruling, the numbers of people coming forward to make their claims has risen significantly.
The reason for the change in the law was that these asbestos related diseases can take years and in some cases decades to show themselves which meant that in many cases workers had left their jobs and were not covered by insurance policies when the symptoms began. The new ruling makes it possible for workers to claim on policies dating back to the 1940s. However, there are a number of situations where making a claim can become very complicated, especially on policies that do date back this far.
The first example of this is where a company is no longer in operation. In this instance, it is possible to trace the insuring company rather than the trading company. If it emerges that there is no one accountable, you may be able to claim from the government (Pneumoconiosis Act 1979). In many cases, a claim needs to be brought against an asbestos mining or manufacturing company – but many of these companies were forced to declare bankruptcy. In this instance, the copany would have been ordered to set aside funds specifically to compensate asbestos victoms. These funds are known as mesothelioma compensation funds or trust funds.
In another example, the company may not be trading anymore but there may be a parent company as in the case of Cape Building Products ltd vs Mr Chandler. Mr Chandler had worked for the company back in the 1950s for four years manufacturing Asbestolux. It wasn’t until 2007 that he discovered that he had mesothelioma but by this time the company was no longer in existence. There was however a parent company, Cape Plc and it was this company that Mr Chandler took his case up with. The Hugh Court had to determine whether the parent company was closely enough linked with its subsidiary to provide a duty of care to its employees and therefore accept liability. Mr Chandler was successful with his claim as it was proved that the parent company was aware of the duties of Cape Buidling Products ltd’s employees.
Finally, in cases relating to asbestos exposure in the military there are certain restrictions about the claim you can make. If the exposure was prior to 1987, you will not be able to make a personal injury claim. You may however be able to claim a ‘War pension’ or make a claim with the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). The AFCS came into effect as of 6th April 2005 and allows service men and women to claim against injuries, illnesses and death during service on or after 6th April 2005.
If you are unsure about whether you or your family can make a personal injury claim relating to an asbestos related disease or even where someone has died, speak to a firm of solicitors with experience in asbestos claims who will be able to advise on the subject and recommend the best way to proceed.