If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, you might develop an asbestos-related disease such as Pleural Thickening or Pleural Plaques – the most common consequences of asbestos exposure.

Pleural plaques

Pleural plaques are a form of scarring of the outer lining of the lung, but they are benign, meaning that they may not become cancerous.  Evidence suggests they do not usually cause long-term health problems but pleural plaques do slowly develop and grow as fibrotic scar tissue accumulates. In most cases, there are no symptoms, but in some patients, there is a restriction on their breathing and pain and suffering have been reported.

Having pleural plaques does not necessarily mean you will develop a more serious asbestos-related disease, e.g. asbestosis/pleural thickening/mesothelioma, but it is almost always an indicator that there has been significant asbestos exposure, and it is something that you should be aware of.

In 5-15% of cases, pleural plaques become calcified.  Calcified pleural plaques are where the scar tissue hardens and this inhibits lung function, causing patients to have trouble breathing as the lung is unable to inflate.

Pleural plaques are non-cancerous, and the majority of people do not experience any loss of lung function, and there is no treatment.

If you have historically been told that you have pleural plaques, please contact our specialist team of solicitors who may be able to offer advice.  It may be that your condition is stable, but you are most welcome to attend the monthly Anglia Asbestos Disease Support Group if you have any concerns about asbestos disease or you are presently being monitored.

Prior to 1997, many people obtained a small government payment, often in the region of £1,000 – £5,000, for pleural plaques.  Unfortunately, many victims of asbestos accepted small settlement sums for this disease but have sadly gone on to develop either asbestosis, pleural thickening or mesothelioma or, in some extreme cases, have since died.  If you believe that you have made a previous claim for pleural plaques and are wondering if you are entitled to any further compensation, it is important that you contact a solicitor for advice.

Pleural thickening

Pleural thickening is a disease of the lung where extensive scarring thickens the pleura (thin membrane that covers the lungs) as the scar tissue grows, it can encase the lung and close off the space between the lungs and pleura.

Pleural thickening can arise within a year of exposure to asbestos, but most commonly, the symptoms do not arise until 15-20 or 30 years later when a doctor makes a diagnosis.

Pleural thickening most often occurs after prolonged exposure to asbestos.  CT scans and x-rays are used to distinguish between pleural thickening and pleural mesothelioma, which can affect patients simultaneously.

The presence of pleural thickening does not necessarily mean you will go on to develop mesothelioma, but it can be a sign of significant asbestos exposure.

When you have been diagnosed with pleural thickening, it is important that you contact a specialist solicitor to obtain the government benefits to which you may be entitled.

Pleural thickening is unlikely to cause any significant pain, but as the disease progresses, there can be chest pain and breathlessness. Unfortunately, the pleural thickening damage is irreversible and therapies to treat the symptoms include pain medication, steroids and antibiotics for repeat infections.  On occasion, some surgery or draining fluid from the lung can play their part, but generally, pulmonary rehabilitation and lifestyle adaptations are the best way to manage this disease. If you are still smoking, it is advisable to stop as smoking will worsen your symptoms.

Pleural thickening can also be caused by other diseases unrelated to asbestos, including empyema, hemithorax, fibrous pleuritis and pulmonary embolism.

If you have ever worked with asbestos and believe that you have been diagnosed with pleural plaques or pleural thickening please contact the asbestos team to find out if you may be entitled to bring a claim.

Pleural thickening claims are less complex to pursue than claims for asbestosis because they are not a dose-related illness.  With pleural thickening, you may have had relatively low levels of exposure over a prolonged period of time, which can lead to pleural thickening and the assessment of respiratory disability can only be determined after attending lung function tests.

Ashtons Legal routinely obtain government benefits for patients suffering from pleural thickening, and the Industrial Injury Disablement Benefit (IIDB) is awarded for life.  The disability awards range in %, and the tariff is paid in accordance with your percentage of disability. It often increases after re-assessment until your condition stabilises.

You may also be entitled to a small lump sum for pleural thickening, and it is important that you check if you are entitled to any benefits and make the applications as soon as possible after being diagnosed.

How do I make a claim for pleural thickening?

As the symptoms of pleural thickening generally affect the life of the sufferer, compensation is available in the usual way.

This means a compensation claim can be brought up to 3 years from the date of knowledge of the pleural thickening, which in most cases is when you are diagnosed.

It is, however, important to know when your exposure to asbestos took place as a solicitor will need to take a work history to identify which employers were at fault.

Our dedicated team of asbestos solicitors are experienced in taking occupational history details from clients, and we offer a no-cost home visit for all clients.

If there is sufficient evidence in order to pursue a claim for pleural thickening, we obtain medical reports and lung function tests are sought from your local treating hospital.

Often CT scans and chest x-rays are the only way that pleural thickening can be identified, and it is important that you attend regular lung function tests, often on a six-month basis.

Some patients are provided with oxygen therapy and many are provided with exercise regimes and pulmonary rehabilitation techniques, which are found to improve breathing and reduce hospital admissions.

Pleural thickening is not necessarily a fatal condition, some respiratory infections when sufferers already have pleural thickening can prove fatal, which is why it is important if you have been diagnosed with pleural thickening you seek legal advice.

Provisional Damages

Claims for pleural thickening are dealt with routinely on a provisional damages basis, meaning that if your condition may deteriorate or a medical expert indicates that you are at risk of developing either asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer or the fatal condition mesothelioma, then it would be our advice for you to settle your claim on a provisional basis.

To settle a claim on a provisional basis means that you can return to court at a later stage should you go on to develop mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer or asbestosis or if your pleural thickening worsens.

Current Ashtons Legal Pleural Thickening & Asbestosis Provisional Damages claims

Ashtons abestos team recently acted for Mr J from Suffolk who worked as a retained firefighter for over 30 years. Mr J was not provided with any respiratory protection whilst raking through the debris following factory and other industrial fires.  The claim was heavily contested by the defendants and the matter settled on a provisional damages basis three weeks before trial at the Royal Courts of Justice.  Mr J was over the moon with the result and provided an article in the local press, raising awareness of the dangers of asbestos and the fact that his former employers did not do enough to protect his former colleagues.  Our asbestos team comments: “Sadly, we are seeing a huge rise in firefighters who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases, and this can be compared to the situation following 911 in America where a number of firefighters and first responders have also been diagnosed or been killed by asbestos disease”.

Our team also settled a claim for Mr H, a Norfolk man who worked as a carpenter joiner.  Mr H was diagnosed with asbestosis, meaning that he is unable to enjoy his hobbies and carry out DIY to the same level that he would have done due to his breathlessness. The provisional damages settlement achieved now enables Mr H to employ contractors to carry out gardening and DIY at his home, and the settlement has given him and his family peace of mind that should his condition worsen, he or his executors would be able to return to court for further compensation if the matter arose.

Contact our asbestos disease and mesothelioma solicitors today

For individual advice, please contact Andrew Wilson or Sylvia Phillips.


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