The Ministry of Defence and its Use of Asbestos

Asbestos is a natural mineral comprised of millions of microscopic needle-shaped fibres.  It was used widely during the 1950s, 60s and 70s in construction, manufacture, and shipbuilding. Because asbestos is versatile, low-heat conducting and almost impossible to destroy, it was favoured by the Ministry of Defence for uses such as fireproofing ships. This means that many military personnel, employees or contractors working for the Ministry of Defence were exposed to asbestos before it was banned in 1991.

Exposure to Asbestos

Most people who were exposed to asbestos whilst working for the military will be aware by now.  In some cases, symptoms can take up to fifty years to develop, but in the majority of cases, the effects of asbestos exposure become evident between fifteen and thirty years after exposure. If it can be proven that your exposure to asbestos was due to negligence on the part of the Ministry of Defence that you should have a good basis for a personal injury claim. Unfortunately, service men and women who were exposed to asbestos by the Ministry of Defence before 1987 are not entitled to make a claim.  Before 1987, the Crown Proceedings Act gave the Ministry of Defence immunity from personal injury claims made by its personnel. However, if you are a serving member of the armed forces and your exposure occurred after 1987, you should still be able to claim.

What Diseases Can Exposure to Asbestos Cause?

When inhaled, the tiny, sharp asbestos fibres become lodged in the lungs.  After mild or infrequent exposure, this may only cause “pleural plaques” which are patches of lung damage.  However, over time, after repeated exposure to asbestos dust or fibres, more serious and sometimes life-threatening conditions can develop. Pleural thickening from asbestos exposure occurs when the fine membrane covering the lungs is damaged and hardened causing chest pain, breathing difficulties and sometimes fluid on the lungs. Asbestosis is a lung disease contracted by breathing in asbestos particles, resulting in fibrosis (or hardening) of the lung tissue.  Asbestosis can form a precursor to mesothelioma and other types of lung cancer. Mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer affecting the mesothelial tissue, or membranes of the lungs. Some of these diseases can be debilitating and painful.  Asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer can all result in death.

How to Make a Claim

If you were exposed to asbestos due to the negligence whilst working for the Ministry of Defence, and you have developed an asbestos-related disease as a result, you may be able to claim compensation. It’s important to speak to a solicitor immediately as there are strict time limits imposed on making a claim. If you are serving in the military before 1987 and were exposed to asbestos, you may be able to make a claim under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme. For more information on how Cute Injury can help, get in touch with us today...

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