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Interstitial lung disease compensation claims

In certain cases of interstitial lung disease, it may be possible for the patient to claim civil compensation through the courts, and they may also be entitled to government payments.  In these circumstances it is important that the patient seeks specialist legal advice.

Interstitial lung disease

The most common interstitial lung diseases for which it is possible to seek compensation and government payments are:

  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Asbestosis

These are both considered to be industrial diseases.  An industrial disease is a work-related illness that has developed after exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace and unsafe working practices.

There are a number of other industrial diseases which do not fall under the umbrella of interstitial lung disease.

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is caused by repeated and prolonged inhalation of different types of organic dusts or substances.  If a patient has been exposed to unsafe working conditions, it may be possible to pursue a compensation claim.

Affected occupations include (but are not limited to):

  • Farmers
  • Refuse workers
  • Food processors
  • Metal workers

Those employed in the above occupations can be exposed to bacteria, fungi, animal and plant proteins and metals which can result in inflammation of the lung tissue.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs caused by heavy levels of asbestos dust exposure.  Asbestosis usually develops 20 years or more after exposure to asbestos, but it can develop sooner where someone has been exposed to very high levels of asbestos dust.

Asbestosis can remain stable for many years causing little disability, but it is usually a progressive disease which can cause increasing breathlessness and coughing as it develops. Typically, the more dust to which the patient has been exposed, the more extensive the disease.

Patients with asbestosis are also at an increased risk of developing other asbestos related illnesses. This risk usually arises from the exposure to asbestos rather than the presence of asbestosis itself, although asbestosis has been linked with the development of lung cancer.

Civil Compensation claims

A claim can be bought in circumstances where a previous employer has negligently exposed a patient to a harmful substance in circumstances where they should have been offered better protection. In the event that a previous employer is no longer trading the claim can be bought against the insurer who provided Employers Liability to the patient’s previous employer.

The patient has three years from the date upon which they were diagnosed to make a claim. There are exceptions to this, and it is worth contacting a solicitor even if they are outside this time period. If a patient died with an interstitial lung disease, then the patient’s estate has three years from the date upon which they died in which to claim.

A specialist solicitor should deal with a claim under a no win no fee agreement. There should be no charge or financial risk to the patient by making a claim. If the claim is not successful it will not cost the patient anything.

A specialist solicitor will assist the patient as much as possible when making a claim. For example, they will usually arrange to meet with the patient at their home at a time convenient for them. They should also keep the patient updated regularly while also providing specialist advice.

 

In addition to civil compensation, the patient may be entitled to benefits such as Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefits (IIDB). To qualify for IIDB they need to have developed a prescribed condition as a result of employment in the UK.

They may also be eligible for a lump sum payment under the Pneumoconiosis Etc Workers Compensation Act 1979. This is dependent on their occupational exposure and level of respiratory disability.

This is personal and individual to each patient and will depend upon a number of factors which are unique to their individual situation. Compensation includes an award for the pain and suffering caused by the illness, together with sums claimed in respect of any care needs, and any financial losses arising from their diagnosis.

As a ballpark figure, the majority of claims settle for five figure sums and as detailed above, the settlement agreement reached often includes provision for patients to seek a further payment if they develop an additional disease.

Yes. A solicitor will establish who is the correct person to bring the claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate. The solicitor will then obtain the available evidence of the deceased’s employment and medical history, such as personnel records and GP and hospital records and advise whether they think a claim is likely to succeed. If the estate decides to instruct a solicitor, they are likely to represent the estate on a no win, no fee basis.

The vast majority of cases settle before they go to court. However, court proceedings may be issued to apply pressure on a defendant in a claim to progress matters. It may be that a Barrister is appointed to represent a patient at court hearings. It is however unlikely a patient would be required to attend court to give evidence.

Key contact

Richard Green

Partner

Richard is a Partner and Head of the Asbestos Litigation team. Richard specialises in asbestos-related disease claims and has recovered millions of pounds in compensation for his clients.

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