Can former railway workers still claim compensation years after exposure?

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Large numbers of former British Rail workers have sadly developed asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and pleural thickening many years after first being exposed to asbestos.

Brigit Nolan, a specialist asbestos disease solicitor from our Plymouth team, explains why it may not be too late to make an asbestos compensation claim many decades after your initial contact with asbestos.

Asbestos was regularly used in the railway industry due to its fire-retardant properties. It was used in the construction of train carriages and found in boilers, pipes, brakes, and gaskets. Asbestos was also commonly found in the electrics, walls, ceilings and flooring of carriages and buffet cars.

Railway workers including fitters and turners, coach builders, maintenance engineers, firemen, and cleaners were frequently exposed to asbestos dust while going about their daily jobs.

It can take up to 60 years for some workers exposed to asbestos dust to go on to develop asbestos-related diseases. But it does not matter how long ago you were first exposed to asbestos, you can still make an asbestos compensation claim many years later. But once you think you might have developed an asbestos-related disease, it is important to act quickly and get specialist legal advice.

Legal time limits for making an asbestos compensation claim

In England and Wales there is a 3-year time limit for making an asbestos compensation claim (sometimes called industrial disease compensation).

This 3-year statutory time limit is known as the limitation period and is legislated by the Limitation Act 1980.

In legal terms, the limitation period starts at the ‘date of knowledge’. This can be the date the asbestos-related disease was diagnosed or the date you suspected you were ill due to asbestos exposure.

There are certain circumstances when a claim can still be made outside of the 3-year period, so it is important to seek specialist legal advice even if your diagnosis was made over 3 years ago.

 What does the law say about ‘date of knowledge’ of asbestos disease?

Section 14(1) of the Limitation Act 1980 says that the date of knowledge is the date on which you first became aware your injury is significant and that it can be attributed in whole or in part to negligent exposure to airborne asbestos dust and a defendant can be identified.

Section 14(3) goes on to state that ‘knowledge’ includes that which the person might reasonably have been expected to acquire from facts or observations apparent at the time of medical or other expert advice or consultation.

What happens if the 3-year time limit is up?

In certain situations, it may still be possible to ask the court to use their discretion to allow a claim to be made outside of the 3-year time limit period. This is covered under section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980.

In this situation the Court will consider all the circumstances, including the reasons for the delay, so it is extremely important to seek specialist legal advice as soon possible.

 Can a claim still be made after the death of a family member from asbestos disease?

Yes. There are times when families are not aware that the death of their loved one was due to an asbestos-related disease. In these situations, you have 3 years from the date of their death or 3 years from the date that they should have known that the death was caused by asbestos exposure.

If someone knows about their asbestos-related disease but dies within the 3-year limitation without making a claim, the limitation period will restart from the date of their death.

Get in touch with our expert asbestos solicitors

The rules about time limits for making compensation claims can be confusing. Often the issue of limitation needs to be investigated by a legal expert. That is why we recommend that if you have been affected by asbestos disease, you get specialist legal advice as soon as possible.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease or you have sadly lost a family member due to asbestos, contact us today and ask us about making a No Win No Fee asbestos compensation claim. Call 0800 884 0777, email info@novumlaw.com or complete our enquiry form.

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