The very short answer is yes. We are frequently contacted by families who have recently lost a loved one through an asbestos related illness such as mesothelioma. In some cases the disease was diagnosed before death but sometimes a coroner has been in touch to advise that there will have to be a post mortem and inquest to determine the precise cause of death. The coroner may indicate that there is suspicion of an industrial disease having contributed to the cause of death. This is sometimes a huge shock to family and loved ones who find themselves trying to make sense of where their relative may have come into contact with asbestos.
As lawyers we need to set out the requirements for a successful compensation claim and one of the first things we need to establish is where and how the exposure to asbestos took place. This usually comes in the form of a witness statement taken from the sufferer in their lifetime, detailing where they worked, what they did for a living and how they came to be exposed to asbestos. This could range from working with asbestos, to washing a partner’s work overalls and even being exposed to asbestos in an office or school environment.
When we are contacted after the death of sufferer then we are unable to obtain that witness evidence first hand. As specialist asbestos illness solicitors it is our task to piece together the exposure history from other sources and in these situations, successful claims are still possible in most cases. If you find yourself in this position, we have listed some of the matters you may want to consider before contacting us:
• Does anyone in the family know where the deceased worked and the type of work he
did such as their spouse, siblings or other family members or friends?
• Did the deceased ever discuss working with asbestos?
• Did any former work colleagues stay in touch with the deceased and are the
family able to contact them?
• Was the deceased a member of any work social clubs?
• Are there any photos of the deceased at work?
• Did the deceased receive a company pension?
• Did the deceased ever discuss any concerns about asbestos exposure with their GP?
Very often a family member will be asked by the coroners assistant to provide a short statement setting out work history for the deceased. We can usually help the family to put this information together which will assist the court with any future claim brought by the family and estate. A successful claim can still be brought after a loved one has passed away and we would urge anyone who finds themselves in this position to contact us immediately.
Case Study 1
In this case we were contacted following the loss of a husband and father through mesothelioma. There had been no diagnosis in life and the death had been sudden and unexpected. The family believed that the sufferer had a been a self employed kitchen fitter all his life and could not see how he could have been exposed to asbestos.
We were instructed to represent the family and investigate the possibility of claiming compensation to support his widow..
We visited the family and spent a few hours talking through what they knew. The son of the deceased mentioned that his elderly Grandfather was still alive and may recall where his father worked. We went to see the Grandfather who recalled that he and his son worked as maintenance engineers for some years until his son left to do his own thing. They would often strip asbestos from pipes and repair asbestos roofing at a timber yard where they were employed.
With this evidence, and an appeal for other former colleagues to come forward, the family recovered £500,000 which provided financial security for the loved ones left behind.
Case Study 2
In this second case we were contacted by the wife of a gentleman who had sadly passed away with mesothelioma. They had moved from the East Anglia area many years ago and she had no idea how her husband could have been exposed to asbestos as she had only ever known him to own a garage which bought and sold cars.
After meeting with her we were told that his family, now estranged, may be able to provide more information. We managed to trace the family and place an appeal in the local paper asking for possible witnesses. From the evidence we obtained it became apparent that the deceased had been an apprentice pipe fitter and had worked on pipework in factories for a short period after he left school.
With this evidence we were able to secure an award of £118,000 which helped to relieve the financial worries having lost her husband.