When you have a minor medical problem, you go see a GP for advice. A GP can tell you about the illness you have, what the causes are, and what if any treatment is required.
If you have a serious illness, seeing a consultant rather than a local GP is usually more appropriate. Although you may not have seen this particular consultant before, gaining the benefit of their specialist expertise has clear advantages.
Seeking advice if you have been exposed to asbestos and are making a legal claim is no different, instructing a lawyer that specialises in this area is highly recommended over any local high street solicitor who has a generalised practice. This is an obvious statement but it bears repeating.
As specialist solicitors dealing with asbestos compensation, we are acutely aware of the specific pitfalls our clients are vulnerable to. If these cases are not handled correctly, legal problems can arise which can have disastrous consequences for clients. We are regularly asked to advise people who have been to a generalist solicitor who has taken on a case which is too specialist.
Determining the source of asbestos exposure
A common problem is where a client cannot remember when and where they were exposed. As specialists, we welcome the challenge of investigating a case that has little initial evidence of exposure, where some would deem the case hopeless at an early stage.
We will examine a client’s work history, research old newspapers and articles, search through archives, launch witness appeals in the local press, and make freedom of information requests to identify potential sources. All potential avenues are explored, and no stone is left unturned.
Precedents in asbestos disease claims may not have been established had a shrewd lawyer not probed a little deeper. Fairchild and Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd (2002) made it easier to succeed in cases where claimants suffering from mesothelioma have been negligently exposed to asbestos by more than one employer. Maguire and Harland & Wolff (2005) provided a benchmark for cases involving second hand exposure to workers’ family members. As specialists we are more than familiar with the relevant case law and precedents.
The three-year time period to bring an asbestos claim is frequently challenged by Defendants. They will argue that our clients are out of time to bring a claim if they have gained knowledge of their disease much earlier.
A skilled asbestos solicitor will use the law to ask the court to exercise its discretion in lifting the strict time limits applied to personal injury claims.
Some less experienced solicitors could overlook this important point and as a result the Defendants will exploit this position. They would raise a very strong defence regardless of the position on liability, causation and evidential prejudice.
What are “Safe” Levels of Asbestos Exposure?
Defendants facing asbestos claims have for a number of years relied heavily upon a technical argument that no foreseeable risk of injury arose if employers could demonstrate that “safe levels” of asbestos were not exceeded in the workplace.
This was extremely damaging to mesothelioma Claimants who had developed this aggressive and terminal cancer from inhaling just small quantities of airborne asbestos dust.
Thankfully due to the recent Court of Appeal ruling (Bussey and Anglia Heating Limited in 2017) the “safe levels” argument has now been overturned. Negligent employers must now show that they took reasonable precautions to minimise the risk of exposure before they can argue about foreseeability of risk.
A solicitor who fails to rely on Bussey could give the other side an opportunity to return to dangerous “safe levels” arguments that denied so many mesothelioma suffers access to justice.
The treatment following asbestos exposure
Unfortunately mesothelioma is incurable. Less specialist solicitors may presume that a discussion on future treatment is worthless. But they’d be missing a huge opportunity.
As experts in our field we liaise closely with treating oncologist and lung cancer nurses about the rapidly developing world of cancer treatment. One example, is immunotherapy which can potentially turn a fatal disease like mesothelioma into a controllable long term condition.
Immunotherapy is not suitable for everyone and is not currently available on the NHS. We incorporate the private costs of this treatment into asbestos claims and demand that negligent Defendants foot the bill. The Defendants will not pay these costs readily but it’s worth the fight if we can help our clients gain access to potentially lifesaving treatments.