Welcome to our Personal Injury Bulletin which covers Pleural Plaques which is a condition brought on by exposure to asbestos. If you would like to discuss any of the issues covered in this bulletin, please get in touch with a member of our team.
What is asbestos and why is it bad?
Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals. It is resistant to heat and combustion and was therefore a very popular material for use in the construction of buildings. However, exposure to asbestos is very bad for individual’s health. This is because the fibres in asbestos are extremely small and aero dynamic and can therefore be easily inhaled into the lungs. Once in the lungs, asbestos may remain there permanently.
What are the consequences of exposure to asbestos?
Some people who have been exposed to asbestos will have absolutely no medical issues at all. However there are various asbestos related diseases and conditions. These are:-
- Asbestosis – This is the most well know disease. This disease can develop many years after the initial exposure to asbestos. Asbestosis is the scarring of lungs which causes breathlessness, breathing will become more and more difficult over time until eventually, the lungs can no longer function and the patient will die.
- Mesothelioma – This is cancer of the lung or abdomen. It can take hold very quickly and, again, is fatal. Lung cancer is the biggest killer amongst those exposed to asbestos, even in small doses. Smokers exposed to asbestos face a far higher risk of developing lung cancer.
- Pleural Plaques – This is most common consequence of asbestos exposure although the least well known. Pleural plaques is the scarring of the lungs where there are no external symptoms and there is no pain or breathlessness. It is only when an x-ray is performed that the condition will be noticed. As there are no symptoms, this is a non-fatal condition.
The Legal Position
The first documented death related to asbestos was in American in the early 1900s. However asbestos was used as a cheap, flexible and highly effective construction material until the 1990s. The first UK asbestos regulations came into force in 1969 and specified how the material should be installed to minimise human contact. It was not until 1983 that the ‘Asbestosis (Licensing) Regulations’ were introduced in the UK.
The ‘Asbestosis (Licensing) Regulations 1983’ were followed by the ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006’ which prohibited the import, supply and use of all forms of asbestos and set controls for dealing with existing asbestos. However this ban does not apply to existing asbestos which, if in good condition, they can be left in place.
Despite the fact that pleural plaques is a symptomless disease, the Scottish Government decided in 2009 that individuals who had developed this condition should receive compensation. This was detailed in the ‘Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009’. As yet there have been no published cases which state the likely level of award but we understand that claims are being settled for between £4,000 to £8,000.
As asbestos was used in so many buildings, it is still possible for individuals to come into contact with this substance. Although most employers will keep a list of all the buildings that have asbestos within them, we consider that there will still be some buildings which have not been identified as having asbestos within them.
What should I do?
If you have been working for your employer for a long time and your job involves maintenance or installation, or you are aware, or think that it is possible, that you have come into contact with asbestos, you should visit your GP and request that they refer you for a chest x-ray. This should be done as quickly as possible.
As with all types of work related conditions, you have three years to lodge a claim once your condition has been diagnosed. The three year period starts from the date that you become aware, or should reasonably have been aware, that you are suffering from the condition.
Lindsays are members of the Compensate Scheme. This allows us to instruct expert medical reports and incur court costs without requiring payment from our clients. It also provides protection to our clients against any liability to pay the other side’s legal expenses should their case be unsuccessful. Solicitor fees and outlays will only be paid where the case is successful.
If you would like to discuss the issues raised in this bulletin, please contact a member of our team.
This newsletter has been issued by Lindsays on the basis of publicly available information, internally developed data and other sources. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken to ensure the facts stated and the opinions given are correct, Lindsays does not accept any responsibility for its content and advise that specific advice should be sought regarding the topics covered.
© Lindsays 2013