I have recently been told that I might have a lung condition and am considering pursuing a claim for work-related pneumoconiosis. Although I have been retired for five years, my doctor has told me that my condition is more than likely the result of my work as a chimney-sweep, a job in which I spent my entire working life. I am hesitant about claiming compensation as it would mean confronting my the company with which I used to work – where I spent almost 45 years, but I need the money to pay my medical bills. Am I entitled to claim compensation?
Firstly, your entitlement to pursue a claim for work-related pneumoconiosis depends on whether or not your condition was caused by unsafe or unsuitable working conditions. While it is true that pneumoconiosis is brought on largely by the inhalation of dust and graphite particles derived from coal, this is not proof enough that your employer is responsible for your condition. In order to ascertain whether or not your work as a chimney-sweep is solely responsible for your condition you should undergo a thorough medical exam immediately. This will help to back up your doctor’s opinion.
If the medical examination indicates that your former career was the reason for – or partly contributed to – your condition, you may be eligible to claim compensation. This may still not be enough evidence to secure a claim however. In the more than four decades you spent in the profession, it is likely that you came across persons in the profession, perhaps co-workers, who developed work-related pneumoconiosis before you. Gathering statements from them may be useful: if you can secure statements from former colleagues who you worked directly alongside, even better.
If your solicitor believes that you have grounds to claim for work-related pneumoconiosis, they will send the evidence you have gathered – the medical report and statements from former co-workers to your former employer in a Letter of Claim, letting them know that you intend to take action against them. Once the letter is sent your former employer will have 21 days in which to acknowledge receipt, and a further 90 days to decide whether or not to accept liability.
You mentioned in your question that you are apprehensive about confronting your old employers about claiming compensation, and while this is understandable, it is worth noting that many of these types of claims are settled before they reach court – meaning that you may not have to argue your case at all. It will more than likely be that your old employer will be saddened to hear of your condition and may even be ready to lend a helping hand.
If they deny liability however, you may have to pursue your claim for work-related pneumoconiosis in court – should this be the case enlisting the help of an experienced personal injury claims solicitor is vital, and should be done at the first available opportunity.