Asbestos. Can you claim against this killer from the past?

Looking to escape the cog in the UK corporate wheel, and the long train commutes and work days that went along with it, Steve Woods set up Woods Solicitors in 2003. He can walk to his Chester office and is able to spend time with his family. There’s been no looking back. “I very much enjoy running my own company because it allows me to meet and develop a strong rapport with clients.”

Since opening, Woods Solicitors (www.woodslaw.co.uk) has helped hundreds of British expats in New Zealand, the US, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain obtain compensation for asbestos-related claims.

Steve WoodsSteve Woods helps British expats with asbestos-related claims

Asbestos? Have we set our clocks back to the 20th century? Asbestos poisoning may no longer be the cause du jour but according to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 125 million people in the world today are exposed to asbestos in the workplace and more than 107,000 die from asbestos-related lung cancer. In France, scientists at INSERM (Health and Medical Research Institute) believe by the year 2025, some 100,000 workers will die from contamination.

Just last month, the Tour Montparnasse in Paris, the famous 210-metre skyscraper with the best views of the capital, had to evacuate workers and companies are deserting its office space due to a “significant number of exposures to asbestos dust”.

“Even if you are no longer living in the UK,” Steve explains, “if you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related lung disease, you may be entitled to a claim and government benefits. We’ve seen a rise in enquiries from those who worked in the UK in the 50s, 60s and 70s and were exposed to the mineral either directly, like someone mixing concrete, or indirectly – the electrician working next to him. The problem is, of course, that forty years later, you may start to develop breathing difficulties and put it down to age.”

In the UK, Health and Safety Executive states that in 2011, “1985 new cases of mesothelioma were assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit and that the worst case predictions for males are that annual deaths will peak by 2016”.

Also worrying is that the “numbers of newly assessed asbestosis cases for IIDB have increased more rapidly than asbestosis deaths in recent years”.

As Steve, who has 25 years experience dealing with personal injury claims, points out, “An X-ray can show whether lung damage is the result of smoking or asbestos, although even medical professionals may not be readily looking for related illnesses when examining patients. Asbestosis, diffuse plural thickening and mesothelioma – a cancer that attacks the protective lining for many of the body’s internal organs – are very serious illnesses that can be caused from contact with asbestos.”

If you think this could be you, get in touch with Woods Solicitors with your concerns – and a few details like contact information, date of birth and your National Insurance number. From here, Steve will decide whether your case can be investigated, look in to your medical records and can come to France to meet with you.

But what's this going to cost? “In April 2013 there was a change in the ‘No Win, No Fee’ law in the UK,” Steve says, “and now solicitors may charge up to 25% of the proportion of damages awarded to their clients. I’m not doing this. I want to reassure anyone contemplating contacting our company that there is no fee to our clients. In cases of those with asbestos related-conditions, compensation is given from the company that employed them, and 100% of the claim goes to the client.”

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