Can I make a claim if I was exposed to asbestos at a shipyard many years ago?

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Former shipyard workers suffer higher rates of asbestos diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and pleural thickening because asbestos was used throughout the shipbuilding process until the 1980s.

Unfortunately, ex Merchant Navy seamen and civilian dockyard workers including laggers, platers, boilermakers, electricians, engineers, tilers, painters and their apprentices were exposed to harmful asbestos dust and fibres in Navy shipyards and commercial docks as they worked.

How were shipyard workers exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was widely used in industry, construction and shipbuilding throughout the 20th century. It was considered important due to its heat resistant and fire preventing properties and was used as insulation on walls, pipes, boilers, gaskets and turbines.

Asbestos was also used to soundproof walls, floors and ceilings of ships and submarines.

This means that anyone involved in shipbuilding, including the maintenance and decommissioning of ships, submarines and aircraft carriers would have handled deadly asbestos as part of their day to day work.

During maintenance, repair and refits, asbestos lagging would be stripped off pipework and boilers, often in confined spaces. Former shipyard workers have told us that ventilation would be poor in these areas and there would be asbestos dust floating around and coating surfaces.

Dockyard labourers involved in delivering materials or parts containing asbestos or off-loading crates and pallets were exposed to asbestos during transportation and deliveries.

Shipyard workers also brought asbestos dust and fibres unwittingly into their homes as it would cling to their clothes, hair and skin. This secondary asbestos exposure has caused many cases of mesothelioma in family members.

Tragically, former shipyard workers were not warned about the dangers of asbestos and many were not provided with protective equipment, such as facemasks.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos is made up of small fibres which can be very dangerous to health if they are disturbed and become airborne. When microscopic asbestos fibres are inhaled, they cause scarring that can lead to asbestos diseases such as asbestosis and pleural thickening, as well as cancers such as mesothelioma, which is a cancer that affects the lining of the lung (pleural mesothelioma) or stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma) and asbestos-related lung cancer.

Asbestos was eventually banned at the end of the 20th century. However, asbestos-related diseases typically take many years to develop.  This is known as the ‘latency period’ and it can typically take between 20 to 50 years for asbestos diseases.

There have even been examples of asbestos diseases taking more than 60 years to develop after the asbestos exposure happened. This means that many former shipyard workers are only now realising the tragic consequences of their work with asbestos decades ago.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease after working at a shipyard or dockyard, you may be able to claim compensation for your pain and suffering and to cover any care and support you need.

Our expert asbestos disease solicitors at Novum Law have successfully handled many asbestos claims for former shipbuilders who were exposed to asbestos at a shipyard or dockyard.

We offer No Win No Fee funding which means there is no financial risk to you and your loved ones in the unlikely event that your compensation claim is unsuccessful.

Can I claim if the shipyard I worked at has closed?

Most people were exposed to asbestos in the mid-20th century, and many of the shipyards and shipbuilders that were active then have since closed down.

However, it is important to know that even if the shipyard you used to work at is now closed, you may still able to claim asbestos compensation.

It is likely that the shipyard will have been insured at the time of your asbestos exposure. The insurer can therefore meet any claim for compensation even if your exposure was many years ago, meaning you and your loved ones can get the justice you deserve.

How long do I have to make a claim?

If you were a shipyard worker or shipbuilder and were exposed to asbestos many years ago in the 1950s or 1960s, you might think you are unable to bring a claim for compensation because it is too late.  However, it is vital to know that this is not the case.

In England and Wales, the time limit for bringing claims only starts when you become aware that you have an asbestos-related disease and are suffering symptoms.

This is known as the ‘date of knowledge’, and you have 3 years from that date of knowledge to pursue a claim for compensation.

If you are making a claim on behalf of a loved one who has sadly passed away within 3 years of their date of knowledge, you can pursue a claim on their behalf instead, and have a further 3 years to make the asbestos compensation claim from the date of death.

It does not matter if your asbestos exposure happened many decades ago, because at that time, there was an ‘injury’ which is only now causing symptoms. However, because of the limitation period following the ‘date of knowledge’, it is very important that you speak to a specialist asbestos disease solicitor as soon as possible.

How Novum Law can help

Alan Jolliffe is Senior Litigation Executive from Novum Law’s Southampton team. He has many years’ experience supporting those who have been diagnosed with asbestos diseases after working in the shipbuilding industry or in dockyards, and says:

“It is of the utmost importance that if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease after being exposed to asbestos at a shipyard that you seek expert legal advice as soon as possible to see if you can make a compensation claim.

“Asbestos diseases such as asbestosis or cancers like mesothelioma are devastating for those affected and if they were caused by the negligence of an employer or another party, you deserve compensation.

“The decline of the British shipbuilding industry might have made some people feel like justice is out of reach, but Novum Law’s expert team has pursued many claims successfully for shipbuilding and dockyard workers who were exposed to asbestos 50, 60 or even 70 years ago, and have a track record of success in even the most complicated and difficult of circumstances.”

If you or a loved one has been affected by asbestos exposure in a dockyard or shipyard, we urge you to get in touch with us today to discuss how we may be able to help on a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis.

Call us on Freephone at 0800 884 0777, email or complete our short enquiry form for a free, no obligation chat.

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