A guide to making a No Win No Fee pneumoconiosis claim
Referring to a group of chronic occupational lung diseases, ?pneumoconiosis' includes asbestosis, berylliosis, byssinosis, coal worker's pneumoconiosis (black lung), kaolin pneumoconiosis, siderosis and silicosis.
Asbestosis is most common, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reporting 900 newly assessed cases for Industrial Disablement Benefit in 2013. Excluding asbestosis, there were 252 estimated new cases of pneumoconiosis seen by chest physicians in the same year (THOR-SWORD).
If an individual is diagnosed with a form of pneumoconiosis, they are entitled to make a claim for compensation if negligence can be proven.
What are the causes?
Pneumoconiosis is caused by inhalation, and retention in the lungs, of dusts. Characterised by scarring and inflammation of the lung tissue, symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent cough, fatigue, laboured and rapid breathing and chest pain.
The type of condition a person develops depends on the particular dust inhaled, as follows:
- Asbestosis - asbestos
- Silicosis - silica (found in sand, sandstone, clay, granite and slate)
- Coal worker's pneumoconiosis (black lung) - coal
- Berylliosis - beryllium
- Byssinosis - vegetable fibres (such as flax, hemp, cotton dust or sisal)
- Kaolin pneumoconiosis - kaolin (used in ceramics, paper, medicines and cosmetics)
- Siderosis (welders' lung) - iron particles
After asbestosis, the most common types are coal worker's pneumoconiosis (black lung) and silicosis.
Who is at risk?
Any individual - or group of individuals - who have been exposed to one or more of the causal dusts stated can develop pneumoconiosis. Some of the most common industries affected include: mining; construction; shipbuilding; iron; and fabric and ceramic manufacturers.
As it usually takes years to develop (10 years between past exposure and onset of symptoms), most current cases occur in retired workers and reflect past working conditions.
If a person suspects they may have work related pneumoconiosis, getting a diagnosis is an important step. Not only to access treatment, but also to demonstrate a link between the disease and a likely cause. A solicitor can help arrange an appointment with a doctor if help has not already been sought.
During this consultation relevant questions regarding current and past work history will be asked to establish whether the condition was indeed a result of exposure in a work environment.
As pneumoconiosis in the UK is a ?notifiable' disease, doctors are duty bound to notify the individual's employer (with permission) of a diagnosis who, in turn, should escalate it to the HSE.
Who is a claim brought against?
In the majority of cases, a claim can be made against the employer (through the employer's insurers) - even if the person affected no longer works for that company.
All employers are legally obligated to provide a safe work environment - this falls under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and, more specifically for pneumoconiosis, the Control of Hazardous Substances Act (2002).
Employers are required to carry out a full risk assessment to identify potential hazards - including dangerous dusts such as silica - and put control measures in place to protect employees who might come into contact with them. This could include installing sufficient ventilation or supplying suitable breathing apparatus.
If it occurs because an employer did not provide adequate protection from harmful dusts, their actions would be seen as negligent, making them liable.
Is the claims process straightforward for pneumoconiosis?
Because the group of pneumoconiosis diseases are long-latency, it could mean that the employer is no longer trading or has relocated, so claims in this area can be more complex. For example, locating the correct employer and the correct insurer can take time.
In addition, an employer could argue that they did not know the risks at the time or that they had provided sufficient controls but the person affected did not follow them as instructed.
Engaging a solicitor in claims of this type can help make the process run more smoothly.
What kind of outcome can be expected?
Many claims have a successful outcome. Although compensation cannot change the past, it can help an individual affected to achieve quality of life relative to their suffering and losses.
In addition to claiming personal injury compensation, pneumoconiosis conditions are also covered by disablement benefit.
How does No Win, No Fee work with pneumoconiosis claims?
No Win, No Fee agreements, also called Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs), comprise the start of a claim for personal injury compensation.
A CFA sets out the service the solicitor will provide and the success fee. This is the percentage to be taken from your compensation award when the claim is successful.
By selecting a Quittance personal injury lawyer, you are able to prioritise your rest and recovery, knowing that there is nothing whatsoever to pay up front.
What to do next
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Find answers to questions asked by injured people in the FAQ section.
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Phone the Quittance team on 0800 612 7456 (or 0333 344 6575 from a mobile) to make a compensation claim. Alternatively, you can start a compensation claim here.
Do you have any other questions? Our solicitors can assist
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