Asbestos related pleural plagues no longer eligible for compensation

Justice secretary Jack Straw has ruled that people suffering from pleural plaques, an asbestos-linked condition, will no longer be able to claim compensation. The ruling is viewed by the industry as a massive blow to working people all over the UK, and a huge success for insurance firms who stand to save £1.4billion a year in payouts.

Objection to the ruling does not focus on the loss of the compensation money, which is generally not very large - averaging around £5,000. The concern has to do more with the loss of time it creates for sufferers of pleural plaques that go on to develop the more serious asbestos-related condition mesothelioma; a cancer of the lining of the lung.

While plural plaques, a scarring of the lung tissue, are not life-threatening, mesothelioma is incurable with death usually occurring 12-18 months after diagnosis. Victims of mesothelioma do receive large compensation claims, however because of the substantial investigations required to establish where exactly the victim came into contact with asbestos, claimants often die before the process is completed. The investigations are particularly lengthy because it can take as much as 50 years for the cancer to show itself and so establishing the exact time and location of the asbestos contact is not always easy.

The same investigation work was required for pleural plaque sufferers as for those diagnosed with mesothelioma. While the compensation amounts are small, the real advantage is having the investigation work completed in the event that the sufferer goes on to develop mesothelioma, in which case, a settlement could be reached much earlier and in time for the money to be used to make the last months of the victims life more comfortable.

The original decision to withdraw compensation rights from pleural plaques sufferers was made by the law lords in 2007, and Jack Straw has upheld this decision. Each year the number of deaths from mesothelioma increases, and currently stands at about 2,000 a year in Britain.

Asbestos was used extensively in the construction industry and other sectors. Today, use of the mineral is banned in all countries belonging to the EU, but because of the long delay for mesothelioma cancer to appear it is expected that the number of related deaths will peak around 2020.

If you are based in Northern Ireland and would like to receive legal advice about an asbestos related disease contact Wilson Nesbitt solicitors in Belfast by emailing [email protected] or by calling 0800 840 9289.

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