Injury time

Posted: 10th October 2011

There is a general rule that an action for damages for personal injury must be brought within three years of the claimant becoming aware of his or her injury.
 
Recently, a man sought damages from his ex-employer relating to chest problems. He had been exposed to asbestos at work and, in the 1980s, had seen a doctor because he was suffering from chest pains. Although the doctor noted a thickening of the lining of the lungs (which is now known to be not uncommon where there has been asbestos exposure) and other issues, these were not thought to be the cause of the chest pains.
 
He went back to work, retiring some years later when he began to experience breathing difficulties. Fifteen years after his retirement, he was again referred to hospital on account of chest pains, and the opinion then formed was that the pleural thickening was likely to have caused the chest pains he suffered in the 1980s.
 
Pleural thickening, although a common precursor to the deadly disease Mesothelioma, which is an asbestos-related cancer, is of itself not actionable, since it is a symptom-free condition.
 
The man’s ex-employer argued that he had brought his claim too late, because he first became aware of the condition in the 1980s. However, the judge ruled that the first time he had knowledge that he had a significant injury was in 2008. The claim was therefore brought in time.
 
This decision is a common-sense one but also a reminder of the importance of meeting claim time limits, as the circumstances under which a ‘late’ claim will be admitted are few. Don't delay - act quickly. Call us now!