The Scottish government has amended its proposed bill on pleural plaques, a condition caused by exposure to asbestos, to ensure that all symptomless victims can claim for damages, including those with asymptomatic asbestosis or pleural thickening.
The bill seeks to overturn the House Of Lords' decision in October 2007 that pleural plaques is not a disease, which left thousands of sufferers ineligible for compensation. Previously pleural plaques sufferers were able to seek awards of up to £15,000. This ruling is thought to have saved the insurance industry around £1.4 billion and has led to sustained pressure from some MPs, campaign groups and unions, who believe that the workers should be compensated for a medical condition that was sustained through no fault of their own.
Pleural plaques are areas of fibrosis or scars on the lung tissue on the inner surface of the ribcage and diaphragm caused by long term to exposure to asbestos. While the disease itself is usually benign, around one in seven people affected by pleural plaques will go on to develop mesothelioma, the aggressive form of lung cancer almost always caused by occupational exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma causes thickening of the lining of lungs and will eventually lead to tumours developing; unfortunately it is untreatable and is always fatal. The prognosis for those who develop the disease is very poor, with roughly a two-year life expectancy after diagnosis.
Symptoms may not appear for 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Consequently there have been a rising number of mesothelioma claims over the last few years, as those exposed to asbestos when there was no health and safety guidance on handling asbestos are now developing the disease. It is thought that the number of mesthelioma cases will peak in 2020 with over 10,000 dying from the disease.
The insurance industry has been shocked by the bill and reacted angrily. If the bill becomes law, pleural plaques claims could run into millions of pounds in Scotland alone and could put additional pressure on the English Government to look again at the House of Lords decision. However, it is the insurance industry's contention that pleural plaques is a symptomless disease and does not necessarily lead to asbestos related diseases.
Nick Starling, Director of General Insurance and Health at the ABI, said: "There is medical agreement, as today's Bill confirms, that pleural plaques are symptomless, do not impact on a person's health and do not develop into asbestos related diseases. To compensate for pleural plaques would fly in the face of accepted medical opinion, the Law Lords ruling and common sense."
Asbestos campaigners welcomed the decision, with Community Safety Minister, Fergus Ewing commenting, "We should not turn our back on these people. That is why the Scottish Government has taken urgent steps to overrule the House of Lords judgement and ensure that people with pleural plaques can continue to raise an action for damages."
If you or someone you know has mesothelioma, it is important that they seek the immediate assistance of an experienced claims solicitor so that you can bring the claim to court as soon as possible and that money is made available during the lifetime of the injured party.
About the AuthorWe deal in a range of claims, including personal injury claims and compensation. Please visithttp://www.1stclaims.co.uk for further information.
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