UK Asbestos Victim Seeks Law Change

Regardless of where a given asbestos lawsuit is claimed, there is one underlying feature that remains the same; there is no universal method through which asbestos lawsuits are litigated.

This case involves a 74 year old pensioner from Glasgow, Scotland, who was recently diagnosed with the incurably fatal asbestos disease called malignant mesothelioma. This man spent 20 years of his life as a railway worker at the St. Rollox railway works where his responsibilities included the stripping of asbestos from train coaches without any type of protective clothing. Years of continuous asbestos exposure led to his development of the rare cancer of the mesothelial tissue.

Believed to be one of an estimated 800 Scottish asbestos victims, this man is faced with imminent death. As difficult as it may be for he and his family to accept such a tragic fate, the disease is compounded by another problem; that of compensation.

Asbestos sufferers are entitled to a certain amount of compensation because of the fact that asbestos product manufacturers have been deemed liable for their failure to adequately inform and protect employees from the hazards associated with asbestos exposure. Current legal rules in Scotland allow the man to file an asbestos claim for himself while alive. His wife and children may also file a claim at the same time for what is deemed "loss of society"; however, if his claim is successful before his death, then any "loss of society" claims filed by family members become null and void.

The situation leaves the man in a precarious situation by which he must decide whether to make a claim himself and hope for a speedy settlement, or tell his wife and children to wait for his death before making a claim of any kind.

The average level of compensation for mesothelioma victims in the Scotland is £55,000. In their separate "loss of society" claims, the man's wife and son are eligible for £28,000 and £10,000 respectively. If the man were to file his claim while alive and win, his family would no longer be eligible for their cumulative compensation of £38,000. If they wait until after his death, they are able to file a claim on his behalf in addition to filing their own "loss of society" claims; thus recouping the full compensation amount of £93,000.

The man has been lobbying Scottish Parliament to change the standing law to allow both victim and family to claim compensation while the sufferer is still alive, without fear of potential compensation ineligibility.

In addition to the estimated 800 malignant mesothelioma sufferers in Scotland, there are believed to be an additional 400 cases of asbestos-related illness at any given time. Victims are getting younger, some as young as 40. Family members requiring a financial crutch to help them deal with any loss of income should not have to be faced with the burden of deciding whether or not to wait for the full amount of compensation or risk losing £28,000 or more for the sake of speedy compensation. Thus far, changes lobbied for by the man in question have not been adopted.

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