Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Asbestos law change set to boost claims

Victims of asbestos in Northern Ireland who suffer from lung scarring have welcomed a change in the law which will allow them to claim for compensation.

Pleural plaques is a scarring of the lungs which, although it has no symptoms, is an indication of exposure to asbestos — and can in turn lead to a number of serious health problems, including lung cancer.

In 2007 compensation claims against employers were stopped by the House of Lords.

Up until then, awards of between £5,000 to £15,000 had been made for pleural plaques cases across the UK.

But now the Supreme Court in London has overturned this development, paving the way for the legislation to come into effect in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks and allow compensation claims.

Those in Scotland are already able to do so.

The change has already been supported by the Assembly.

Hundreds of cases from across Northern Ireland are said to be still outstanding. In 2010 the Department of Finance and Personnel estimated the annual costs to businesses for pleural plaque claims to be around £1.9m.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, who brought the legislation to the Assembly, said he “supported the policy objective of the legislation” and its introduction.

Those diagnosed with the condition in England and Wales are still not eligible to make claims.

Background

Pleural plaques is a scarring of the lining of the lungs caused by asbestos. Although symptomless, it has been linked to a number of medical conditions including mesothelioma and lung cancer. For decades sufferers were able to claim against employers for compensation, until a 2007 House of Lords decision prevented claims. Last week’s Supreme Court decision means claims will once again be able to continue.

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