Assertions that the present dangers of contracting an asbestos related disease are considerably reduced as a result of the banning of its use in products or heightened asbestos awareness, are shown to be false every time Government statistics and anecdotal evidence are released. Consistently rising asbestos compensation figures show very clearly that more people are contracting asbestos-related cancers such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Data collated from disablement benefit files from 1981 to 2008 show that as mesothelioma mortality has risen, so too has the number of benefit claims, albeit at a lower level. However, even as recently as the 1980s, many of those with asbestos-related diseases did not use the courts to pursue an asbestosis claim. In a 1994 survey document, a vast pool of uncompensated asbestos victims in the UK was identified.
Amongst the reasons cited for the huge disparity in the number of asbestos-related civil actions were, loyalty by workers to former employers who would be reponsible for paying their pensions, and a reluctance to taking the risk of having to pay both sets of costs if a legal case were lost.
By the time the survey was published, however, the climate had already changed. The results of an informal sampling of legal specialists undertaken in January 2010 confirm that the number of those pursuing a personal injury mesothelioma claim had been increasing since the mid-1990s.
Unfortunately, legal, political and financial options, whereby, companies seek to avoid asbestos liabilities, can too often, be the norm. In October 2009, a report based on researched analysis of 91 mesothelioma cases, entitled ‘Mesothelioma Claims’ was issued, which warned that “ … mesothelioma claims present a real business risk to many companies – first because they have still to reach a peak, and secondly, because the current legislative landscape makes it easier than ever for individuals to bring legal action against companies that may have exposed them to asbestos.”
The study findings were typical:
-Nearly 60% of the cases were brought against organisations from the following industrial sectors: mechanical, electrical and process engineering, chemical, construction, metal, mineral, electronics and IT hardware,
-Geographical clusters of cases confirmed that many of the claimants had been exposed to asbestos through employment in engineering, chemical production and construction.
-Most of the injured were exposed to asbestos between 1956 and 1960.
-The value of claims ranged from £50,000 to £200,000.
In addition, the figures showed that there are almost as many claims by dependents (47%) as by principals (53%).