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Limitation and the implications for your patient

Did you know that an asbestos-related condition, caused as a result of asbestos exposure in the course of employment, is treated as a personal injury in the eyes of the law? This means your patient may be eligible for benefits and compensation, providing funds for vital aids and equipment. However, it also means that your patient faces a race against the clock to secure the compensation to which they are entitled.

The Limitation Act 1980 operates to impose time periods after which it will not be possible to bring an action following a breach of the law. In relation to personal injury matters, the act provides that a claimant has three years from the date the injury occurred, or from the deemed date of knowledge in which to start court proceedings.

Date of knowledge

The deemed date of knowledge is particularly important for asbestos-sufferers as victims of asbestos exposure typically becomes aware of the cause of their condition not at the onset of symptoms but following a discussion with medical professionals. The courts have interpreted the date of knowledge as being the date on which the claimant knew or should have known he suffered from an asbestos-related condition. This interpretation imposes upon your patient an objective test; when would a reasonable man, in the same circumstances as your patient, have known he had a personal injury caused as a result of his exposure to asbestos?

Sometimes the date of knowledge is relatively easy to pin-point after discussions with a patient and examination of the medical records. However, time and time again situations arise in which a patient’s medical records make reference to the possibility, or presence, of asbestos-related conditions before the date on which a patient remembers being made aware of the condition. There can be many reasons for such an inconsistency but the net effect can be that your patient is statute-barred from taking a claim because they are deemed to have knowledge of their condition some time before they actually became aware of it, or realised it was connected to asbestos exposure.

So how can we avoid these situations?

Communication is key. It is vitally important that as soon as you are aware your patient has a condition which may have been caused by exposure to asbestos, you tell them. Make your patient aware of the help and assistance available to them. It is important that your patient seeks advice promptly. The National Asbestos Helpline is here to help. We can advise your patient on applications for benefits and help them to assess their suitability for a civil claim. This advice allows your patient to make informed decisions that are right for them and their family.

For more information, please call us on 0808 223 0726 or email enquiries@nationalasbestos.co.uk

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