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Asbestosis Compensation Claims

Asbestosis is a progressive crippling respiratory disease that was first found in naval shipyard workers. It is caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres and usually strikes workers in the shipbuilding / ship repairing, textile, cement and insulating industries.

Serious asbestosis is usually caused by heavy exposure to large quantities of asbestos fibres. Either a sustained exposure over a period of years (e.g. a long time worker at an asbestos textile plant) and/or intense exposure for a shorter period (e.g. a worker in the boiler or engine rooms of ships under construction.) The specific type of asbestos fibre to which the worker was exposed does not seem to be significant in the development of asbestosis.

Asbestos Related Diseases Newcastle

How is Asbestosis Caused?

When someone breathes in airborne asbestos fibres they become trapped in their lungs. The body tries to dissolve the asbestos fibres by producing acid. The acid does little to damage the asbestos fibres since they are very durable and chemically inert. Unfortunately the acid does cause irritation and inflammation of the cells in the lungs and may scar and thicken the surrounding tissue. Eventually a “fibrosis” or scar tissue develops in the spaces around the small airways and the tiny sacks at the end of your bronchial tubes called “alveoli”. The alveoli are where the oxygen from the air enters your blood, and the carbon dioxide from your body goes into the air. Alveoli are very tiny, but you have a lot of them in your lungs. The thickening and scarring caused by the asbestos fibres prevents oxygen and carbon dioxide from travelling between the alveoli and the blood cells, so breathing becomes much less efficient.

Over a period of many years this damage may become so severe that the lungs cannot function. The “latency period”, that is to say the time it takes for the disease to develop, is very long (25 to 40 years).

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Asbestosis – Symptoms

The symptoms of asbestosis typically include shortness of breath, coughing, a dry crackling sound while inhaling and chest pain.

Often, not all of these symptoms will appear straight away. Asbestosis is a slow progressing disease that may show no symptoms for 10 to 30 years after exposure to asbestos.

Once the process of inflammation and scarring of the lungs has been started by the asbestos fibres, the disease can continue to progress. This is even after the exposure to asbestos has ceased. As the disease progresses, the symptoms can worsen.

You may initially only experience shortness of breath during heavy exertion. Over time breathlessness may be caused by lower levels of exertion and then start to interfere with the ability to carry out everyday activities. Eventually you may require oxygen. In unusual cases the condition can even prove fatal.

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Asbestosis – Diagnosis/Treatment

The scarring and thickening of the tissues of the lungs cause by asbestos fibres can be seen on x-rays and CT scans which will show a typical fibrotic pattern. There are added chest sounds also called rales, crackles or crepitations that can be heard with a stethoscope. A breathing, or respiratory function, test (sometimes called a “lung function test”, “pulmonary function test” or “PFT”) may also be carried out to check whether the functioning of the lungs has been reduced. A consultant can conclusively identify Asbestosis by taking samples of lung tissue (called a “biopsy”).

Asbestosis affects both lungs (it is “bilateral”) and, although it is mainly in the lower fields of the lungs, it is usually widespread (“diffuse”).

At the moment there is no cure or effective treatment for asbestosis. Some measures can be taken to slow the progression of the disease and prolong life.

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Asbestosis itself is not a cancerous lung disease. People with asbestosis should stop smoking immediately because people with asbestosis are much more susceptible to lung cancer. There is also a higher risk of developing another serious asbestos related condition called mesothelioma however you will not automatically develop mesothelioma if you suffer asbestosis.

Asbestosis – State Benefits/Compensation

You may be entitled to Department For Work And Pensions (“DWP”) benefits. Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit is payable to those who suffer a disability caused by a disease which the DWP accepts has been caused by the person’s occupation. Asbestosis is called Prescribed Disease D1.

Department For Work & Pensions

Provisional Damages

Although provisional damages are available it is more usual for the courts to deal with asbestosis claims on a full and final basis. In addition to an award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity a claimant may also be able to claim for loss of past and future earnings, the cost of specialist care, care provided by the claimant’s family, special needs, such as the cost of a stair lift, or special shower or bed.

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Injury Claims Newcastle

What if my Employer No Longer Exists?

Even if your employer is no longer trading we can often still recover compensation by tracing the company’s employer liability insurers. We have a database of insurers which we have built up over many years of dealing with these claims.

Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979

If you are unable to sue your former employer because, for example, they have ceased to trade, then you still may be able to claim under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 which provides a scheme under which qualifying employees are entitled to a one-off lump sum payment. You will usually have to successfully apply for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit to qualify for this.