Can I claim for asbestos exposure?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral which due to its hardwearing properties, was widely used in the 50’s 60’s 70’s and 80s particularly in power stations, shipbuilding, construction and the motor industry. It was not until 1999 that the damaging effects of the fibres were fully accepted and its use was completely banned in the UK.

Many people were exposed to asbestos but had no idea until decades later when the effects began to become apparent. Year on year the number of patients diagnosed with asbestos related diseases continues to rise and is expected to see its peak around 2025.

As well as those that worked directly with asbestos, it is possible for victims to suffer from ‘secondary exposure’. This occurs when inhaling fibres from the work clothes of a family member, or inhalation from living near a factory where asbestos was regularly used.

The illnesses caused by exposure can be very serious and even fatal. These include


A rare fatal cancer which most frequently starts in the lining of the lungs but can also start in the abdomen. Symptoms tend to only be noticeable once the cancer has grown and presses on a nerve or body organ. Common symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, weight loss, tiredness and a persistent cough. Unfortunately there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, but positive studies are being made in the development of immunotherapy treatment which can prolong life expectancy.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer originates in the lung tissue. Symptoms are similar to mesothelioma and include shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and weight loss. Patients generally have a better survival rate than those with mesothelioma.


A long term lung condition caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Symptoms include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, and fatigue and chest pain.

There is no cure for asbestosis once it has developed and it can worsen over time. However, in many cases, the condition progresses very slowly or not at all. Those diagnosed with asbestosis, are at a higher risk of developing pleural disease, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Pleural thickening

Also known as diffuse pleural thickening, this is a lung disease which causes extensive scarring and thickens the lining of the lungs. The capacity and malleability of the lung is often reduced.  Symptoms include chest pain and difficulty breathing.

What do I need to prove to make a claim?

To be able to make a compensation claim for asbestos exposure, you must file the claim within three years from the date that you first become aware of the diagnosis. Or when you were made aware, or should have been aware, of the link between your symptoms and exposure to asbestos.

If you are claiming on behalf of a deceased family member this time can be extended as the claim must be filed within three years of the date of death.

Damages can be substantial in these claims to cover the pain and suffering as well as any financial losses or expenses incurred by the sufferer or their family.  Funding can be obtained to help provide care and adaptations, an example being the installation of stair lifts and walk in showers.

To make a valid claim you must be able to prove some important points. You will need

  1. A medical report, by a reputable respiratory disease expert, to state that you are suffering from an asbestos related illness caused by exposure.
  2. To be able to link asbestos exposure back to a specific workplace; product; location  or, if secondary exposure, to be able to link to the original source
  3. To prove that the employer or occupier was aware of the risks
  4. To prove that the employer was negligent or in breach of a duty in regards to failing to take reasonable practicable steps or to avoid exposure to the asbestos

Proving all of these aspects can be very difficult, particularly if liability is disputed by the employer in question. Due to the length of time which has passed, further difficulties can be found if the company no longer exists or the insurer is difficult to track down. This is why instructing an experienced and accredited asbestos specialist solicitor, like those at Plymouth’s GA Solicitors is crucial.

Additional support can be found on the British Lung Foundation’s website.