It is quite understandable that those diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease have other things on their minds than launching a compensation claim. However, as one High Court case illustrates, any delay in seeking legal advice can place the future of your loved ones in jeopardy if the worst happens.
A plumber was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a particularly lethal form of cancer of the lining of the lungs or abdomen that usually develops as a result of exposure to asbestos. He believed that he had been exposed to the substance whilst working for a local authority. However, he did not make an appointment with a solicitor straight away, partly due to the initial shock of the diagnosis and the gruelling chemotherapy treatment that followed.
During a period of remission from the disease, he was anxious to keep life as normal as possible for the sake of his wife and children and was also – wrongly – concerned that a legal claim would risk leaving his family in debt. Owing to his delay in seeking legal advice, a claim was only issued against the council about five months before he died from the disease. That was about ten weeks after the expiry of the three-year limitation period that applies in such cases.
In waiving that time limit and allowing the man’s widow to proceed with the claim, the Court noted the very human reasons for the delay. Without pre-judging the issues in the case, the Court observed that the widow appeared to have a strong case on the available evidence. The council had also suffered little or no prejudice due to the relatively short delay in lodging proceedings. In those circumstances, it was fair and just that the matter should proceed to trial.