From April 2016, veterans left terminally ill with Mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos related cancer, will be entitled to compensation if they can prove that they were exposed to asbestos during their military careers with the Army, Navy or RAF.
Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer that is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. The average life expectancy from date of diagnosis is nine months to two years and symptoms are not likely to show until decades after the initial exposure.
Prior to April 2016, veterans who were diagnosed with Mesothelioma were unable to sue the MOD due to Crown Immunity. This was seen to be unfair given that civilians, suffering from the same condition, were receiving significant compensation from those who negligently caused their exposure to asbestos.
The MOD’s change of policy is a victory for veterans who, as of April 2016, will receive a lump sum of £140,000 for their suffering. Whilst no amount of money will ever compensate the victims and their families, this is good news, in particular, for the 2,500 naval veterans that are expected to die from mesothelioma within the next three years. Their exposure is linked to the asbestos insulation of pipes in boiler rooms of ships and the lump sum payment is a small piece of justice for their pain & suffering and comfort that their families may be taken care of, following their death.
Whilst this latest development is welcomed as being a compassionate and just move from the MOD, there is still much to be done in terms of its policies towards veterans suffering from asbestos related condition.
The change of policy only covers veterans who are diagnosed with mesothelioma on or after 16 December 2015. Any veterans who are diagnosed prior to that date will miss out on compensation and the opportunity to offer financial assistance to the family that they are leaving behind.
Further, there is a range of asbestos related conditions that significantly impact the victim’s quality of life that again, civilians receive compensation for. Those conditions include Asbestos Related Lung Cancer, Asbestosis and Pleural Thickening. Currently, the latest development only covers Mesothelioma which is the most severe of all asbestos related conditions. It seems unjust for our ex-servicemen who are injured by severe respiratory conditions that are caused by exposure to a substance that ultimately could have been prevented.
Laura McCallum, Solicitor and Asbestos Litigation Specialist said: “It is important and only fair that our ex-servicemen are treated equally to their civilian counterparts as they too are suffering from horrendous conditions that not only impair their breathing but significantly reduce their quality of life, at worst, taking their lives. Upon joining the armed forces, our servicemen accept that they could become significantly injured or even die under enemy fire. They, however, do not expect to become injured or die as a result of their employer’s negligence, through exposure to asbestos. As such, it is only fair and just that the change of policy not only applies to all veterans (regardless of date of diagnosis) but also covers all asbestos related conditions.”
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