United Kingdom Legal Issues

Asbestos has been imported into the United Kingdom since the 1880s, mostly for use in the textile industry, but its extensive use included thousands of commercial products such as building materials, flooring, and packing materials. The UK set forth its first asbestos regulations in 1969 and the use of asbestos materials has declined since then.

Because asbestos was still used until the 1990s, though, claims are not expected to peak for about ten years, since disease from asbestos exposure can take 20 to 50 years for symptoms to manifest.   A report by the Health and Safety Executive issued in 2003 stated between 1,950 to 2,450 deaths from asbestos related diseases can be expected each year from 2011 through 2015.

Asbestos Compensation Claims

The group further states the cost will depend on which asbestos related diseases the claimants have contracted. The report went on to predict more than half the claimants would be those suffering from a deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma. This data was collected from major insurers in the UK, and the report warned that claims of up to 20 billion pounds can be expected within 30 years. They stated the Government would have to cover at least half of the cost, since only about half would be paid by United Kingdom insurance agencies.

In the United Kingdom, it seemed for many years that victims of asbestos related diseases did not have much hope of receiving any kind of compensation. Recently, however, legislation was passed that may help workers who filed claims against former employers and companies that were responsible for their exposure to asbestos dust. Some of the legal issues arose from the contention that the insurer who was under contract by the employer when the employee was exposed should pay the claim. If more than one employer is involved, then the claim should be divided accordingly. This argument was countered with statements that because mesothelioma develops about ten years before symptoms become known, the insurer covering the employer when the symptoms appear should pay, and not the insurer when the person was first exposed.

No matter how the United Kingdom’s legal issues are eventually ironed out, the certainty is that this is a problem that will not disappear anytime soon. Claims will continue, new cases will be diagnosed and sadly, much suffering is still ahead. Asbestos use and exposure will haunt nations, industries and victims far into the foreseeable future.