Workers compensation for lung disease


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By Crispin Bateman

on Monday 15 October 2018


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Can I claim workers compensation for lung disease?

In the UK, compensation claims for lung disease must be filed within three years of the initial diagnosis. However, if you contracted the lung disease decades ago, and symptoms did not present until recently, you have an entitlement to make a claim.

What causes lung disease?

The lungs are the organ responsible for breathing, and almost every lung-related disease claim comes as an industrial compensation claim due to exposure and inhalation of a dangerous substance. This can vary from the well-known dangers of asbestos crystals, to the subtler dangers presented by baker’s flour or components of paint thinners.

The construction and manufacturing industries in particular are common sectors which suffer from a high number of occupational lung disease claims.

Who is at fault?

Every employer has a duty of care to its employees. With regards to most hazardous substances, the heath and safety regulations are collated under the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) rules. If these regulations are not followed, then the employer is fully liable for any resulting damage done to you while in the workplace.

Note that asbestos, lead and radioactive substances are not covered under COSHH as they have their own specific regulations.

What are the COSHH regulations?

The COSHH regulations follow a process of assessment, prevention, protection, monitoring, training and review. Employers are expected to:

  • assess all the dangers the substances they use may present (assessment)

  • do what they can to find alternatives if possible (prevention)

  • provide a well-ventilated, clean environment or suitable enclosures to control exposure and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) (protection)

  • have full and regular monitoring of all equipment and checks regarding employee training and understanding (monitoring)

  • ensure employees are fully aware of all risks and properly taught in the methods of handling dangerous substances (training)

  • regularly review all procedures and check all equipment to ensure it is always up-to-date (review)

If you believe your employer did not follow these processes and that you have suffered as a result, then you should consider a lung disease claim.

The government is keen to ensure that everyone who has been exposed to a harmful substance and subsequently contracted a lung condition receives the proper care and fair compensation. In the case of asbestos and associate mesothelioma, additional government support has been given to further this end, especially where it is hard to find a relevant party to sue for damages when substantial time has passed.

Read our full article on asbestos related compensation claims for more information.

I haven’t worked there for decades – do I still have a claim?

Under the law, any claim for compensation must be started within three years of initial diagnosis of a condition. As many lung-related diseases can take decades (in some cases, as much as 40 years) to present symptoms, it could well be the case that a pneumoconiosis that was caused by work in the 1980s has only presented recently and in that situation, yes, a claim would be valid.

If the company you wish to claim against is no longer in operation, a claim can still be made against the insurance they had in place at the time. It is very rare for there to be no appropriate responsible party liable for a compensation claim.

If you are unsure of your claim’s validity, please do give us a call and we can help calculate the elapsed time and the chance of a successful claim.

I’d like to claim for my deceased family member – is that possible?

It is possible to initiate a worker’s compensation claim for lung disease for the spouse and dependants of a third-party who died from the condition. Please contact us and we can assess the full situation.

I know many affected colleagues – can we make a COPD class action lawsuit or group litigation order?

In the UK, the law allows for a Group Litigation Order (GLO) to make a compensation claim as a collective. If you represent a group, whether large or small, then we would love to hear from you and will help you receive the maximum possible compensation amount.

Will I have to go to court?

Many compensation claims are settled between solicitors before they ever go to court. However, should your claim go to court then it is usual that you be required to attend.

If there is a medical reason why this isn’t possible, then it will be taken into account.

How much can I claim for?

Courts follow guidelines for maximum claim values. They consider everything, from your emotional distress and the effect of long-term suffering, to more minor things such as hospital car parking charges. Consult this chart for a list of COPD compensation amounts and other lung disease payouts:

Severity Compensation
Temporary aggravation of bronchitis£1,760 to £4,240
Slight breathlessness with no effect on working life and the likelihood of substantial and permanent recovery£8,480 to £16,580
Bronchitis and wheezing not causing serious symptoms£16,580 to £24,950
Breathing difficulties (short of disabling breathlessness)£24,950 to £43,710
Disease, e.g., emphysema, causing significant and worsening lung function£43,670 to £55,830
Lung cancer£55,830 to £77,580
For a young person with serious diability where there is a probability of progressive worsening leading to premature death£80,250 to £108,370

Will I put my former employee or colleagues out of work?

You are entitled to full compensation for any injury you have suffered due to negligence in the workplace – without guilt or worry. Contrary to sensationalist headlines, it is incredibly rare for a compensation claim to result in the closure of a business or any impact on the individuals involved in that business. Liability insurance is a requirement of good business and will be in place to protect the company from any legal expenses or compensation payouts – the worst that will happen is a rise in their annual insurance premiums!

What do I do to make a claim?

If you believe you have cause for compensation for a lung disease, we are here to help you. At Accident Line Direct, we believe that everyone has a right to professional legal representation without worry of the financial costs involved, so we work on a No Win No Fee basis. We make our money by taking a small percentage of the final compensation award. If the case isn’t won, it won’t cost you a penny. We work to our utmost to ensure the best possible result – after all, if you win, then so do we. There are no hidden fees and there’s no surprise small print.

Give one of our advisors a call today or fill in our contact form to have a specialist call you back at a time convenient to you.

Please share this article if you know someone who may be affected by a work-related lung disease. They could be entitled to a significant compensation award that could help them have a more comfortable future.

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What are lung diseases?

Lung disease is a term used to group many long-term breathing conditions. Most lung disease compensation claims are made because exposure to harmful chemicals in the workplace has led to damage to the lung resulting in a breathing disorder.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder is not an actual lung disease, but an umbrella term which covers three main lung diseases. It is, however, common and under to refer to your lung disease as COPD when referring to it either medically or in terms of making a claim for respiratory compensation.

COPD encompasses emphysema, chronic bronchitis and refractory (non-reversable) asthma. It is incurable and permanently affects your quality of life.

What is emphysema?

If you have emphysema, then the tiny alveoli – or air sacs in your lungs – have become damaged. This makes them stretch and increase the size of your lungs, making it harder to maintain a good airflow. The used air becomes trapped in the alveoli meaning there’s no room to replace it with clean air. It becomes harder to have an intake of oxygen and similarly difficult to remove the carbon dioxide produced as waste.

What does chronic bronchitis mean?

The bronchial airways are the tubes which pass air inside your lungs. When you contract chronic bronchitis, the cilia – or tiny hairs that keep your airways clean – become damaged and it becomes considerably more difficult to cough up the mucus produced in your lungs.

As a result, your bronchial airways become clogged and it becomes increasingly hard to breathe.

What is refractory asthma?

Usually, asthma can be controlled through medication. Asthma refers to a condition where the bronchial airways are prone to tightening and swelling, inhibiting breathing. Asthma medication typically reverses the issue, helping to widen the airways and return breathing to normal.

Refractory asthma is resistant to these medications and can lead to incredibly strong asthma attacks that have to be ‘ridden out’ rather than relieved through use of an inhaler.

The symptoms indicative of asthma (both refractory and not) include:

Lung cancer

Cancer is where the cells do not develop in the normal fashion and instead grow into tumours. There are different types of lung cancers, but all share in the property of inhibiting breathing and threatening the entire body.

Pneumoconiosis (including Asbestos and Silica-related lung disease)

Pneumoconiosis comes from the latin words for lung and dust (pneumo, and konis) and is a condition which results in lung scarring (fibrosis). As its name suggests, it is most often caused by breathing in dust from minerals like coal, or metals like iron over long periods and as such is considered an industrial lung disease.

There are various types of pneumoconiosis, each with their own name based on the type of dust that is involved. They include:

The related symptoms that show for pneumoconiosis can differ by type. Characteristically, no symptoms can show for a very long time, masking the condition and making it difficult to diagnose early. Once problems begin to become known, the damage is already established and impossible to cure.

Read our article ‘Claiming Compensation for an Asbestos Related Disease’ for an in-depth look at asbestos-related lung disease compensation.