Asbestosis is a condition that affects the lungs following exposure to asbestos fibres. It is usually regarded as a disease that occurs after long-term exposure to asbestos in the workplace. The risks of being exposed to asbestos are that asbestosis often develops into lung cancer or mesothelioma. Sadly, there is no treatment that can cure asbestosis which means that once it has been diagnosed there is really only one conclusion.
It has always been the case that claims can be made against insurance companies by families who have lost a relative suffering from asbestosis; but these claims have, until recently, been approached with caution as the law has not been very clear and insurance companies have maintained a strong position in defending themselves against allegations of negligent exposure.
The UK Supreme Court in its landmark ruling of 28th March 2012 decided that the liability of an insurance company should arise at the time that the employee was exposed to the asbestosis, rather than at the time that the symptoms of asbestosis start to present.
This appeal to the Supreme Court arose as there are a number of families who seek to make claims on insurance policies that were in place for companies who allowed their employees to work alongside asbestos that date as far back as the 1940s. The judgment has been welcomed by the Association of British Insurers and the families of relatives as it has clarified a previously very ambiguous body of case law.
Asbestosis may seem like an archaic disease and something from employment past. However, around 2,500 people are diagnosed with the fatal disease every year. Despite the fact that Health & Safety measures have improved and awareness is undoubtedly heightened, the symptoms of asbestosis can take many years to develop and it is for this reason that these devastating diagnoses are still being made.
The legal battle taken on by families against large insurance companies began nearly six years ago and was vehemently defended by some insurers who asked the court to find in their favour in order to allow them to side-step making large compensation payment to the 5,000 families who lose a relative each year following their exposure to asbestos. This means that a large number of those suffering this deadly disease will not have lived long enough to see the long-awaited outcome the case put before the Supreme Court against the insurers.
Specialist lawyers in the field have estimated the likely compensation payout at the conclusion of an asbestosis claim could range between £65,000 to several million pounds. This range in value will be controlled by the individual circumstances of the claim brought.
The Supreme Court ruling has brought clarity to the law and comfort to the families living with asbestosis and those who have yet to discover that a relative is suffering as a result of exposure to asbestos in the work place.
This ruling is a victory for those families who are delighted that the law has upheld their moral battle to pursue justice on behalf of those negligently exposed to asbestos who would otherwise be unable to guarantee security for the families that they leave behind.