Pleural thickening and pleural plaques are two non-malignant diseases caused by asbestos exposure. Pleural plaques rarely cause symptoms, but they are an indicator of significant asbestos exposure and may be a risk factor for later developing mesothelioma.
Pleural thickening can become more severe and limit lung function, causing chronic chest pain and difficulty breathing. It is often an indicator of a more severe condition and may also be a sign of malignant mesothelioma cancer.
A pleural thickening diagnosis can be very distressing for the individual and their family. If you have worked in industries where asbestos was heavily used, you might be able to make a pleural thickening claim, even if your former employer is no longer trading.
Under the current law, pleural plaques alone do not usually constitute a compensatable injury, as the plaques themselves are harmless. You can only claim pleural plaques compensation if you actually experience symptoms or have other asbestos-related conditions.
Can I make a pleural thickening claim?
If you have been diagnosed with the condition, you might be entitled to claim pleural thickening compensation. The easiest way to determine whether you have a valid claim is through a free consultation with a legal adviser. They will ask you a few questions to verify that:
- You were diagnosed with pleural thickening within the last three years
- Another party owed you a duty of care
- They breached their duty by negligently exposing you to asbestos
Most people are exposed to asbestos in the workplace, but you could still make a pleural thickening claim if:
- You developed the disease due to secondary exposure to asbestos fibres from the hair or clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos.
- You lived in the surroundings of asbestos-processing plants.
If you have a valid pleural thickening or pleural plaques claim, your solicitor will help you gather all the evidence you need to build a strong case, which could be:
- The medical evidence of the extent of your condition, treatments and prognosis
- Witness statements from colleagues and family members
- Photographs of your working environment
- Independent medical reports and lung functioning tests
- Your notes about how you were exposed to asbestos and how your condition affected your life
- Financial records of losses and expenses incurred due to your condition
After your claim is ready, your solicitor will reach out to your employer or their insurer and inform them of your intentions to claim pleural thickening compensation. If they admit liability for your asbestos exposure, you can start to negotiate a settlement.
If the other side denies any responsibility, your solicitor will issue court proceedings. This does not necessarily mean your claim will end up in court, as negotiations will continue after this point, and more than 95% of personal injury claims will settle out of court.
What is pleural thickening?
The pleura is a thin two-layer membrane that covers the lungs and the inside of the rib cage and is an essential part of the respiratory system. Its role is to cushion the lungs and secrete a fluid that acts as a lubricant, reducing any friction between the lungs, chest cavity and rib cage.
If you inhale airborne asbestos fibres, these can become lodged in the pleura and cause chronic inflammation, scarring and thickening. Pleural thickening can occur in one or both lungs and can be divided into two categories:
- Focal pleural thickening is confined to one or more specific areas of the pleura;
- Diffuse pleural thickening refers to uninterrupted thickening of 25% or more of both of the pleurae or at least 50% of one of the pleurae.
Within these groups, specific cases can either be benign, caused by the build-up of fibrous tissue, or malignant, caused by mesothelioma or metastatic cancer. Pleural thickening is not always serious, but even a benign condition can impede lung function.
The condition can develop within one year of asbestos exposure or may arise many years later. To help ensure an accurate diagnosis, you must share your history of asbestos exposure with your doctor. They will run diagnostic tests such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to diagnose pleural thickening.
In most cases, pleural thickening does not require treatment as the symptoms are not life-threatening. As the condition progresses, the treatment is limited to symptomatic and supportive care and includes smoking cessation and pulmonary rehabilitation.
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with pleural thickening due to asbestos exposure, you might be entitled to make a pleural thickening claim.
What are pleural plaques?
Pleural plaques are similar to pleural thickening and refer to small areas of thickened tissue in the pleura. They are the most common sign of asbestos exposure, are usually benign, and do not cause serious health problems.
The plaques begin to form once asbestos fibres reach the pleura and cause inflammation and fibrosis over time. They often develop in the outer membrane that attaches to the chest wall but may also develop in the inner membrane or the diaphragm.
Pleural plaques are made of cartilage-like tissue and are sometimes referred to as hyaline pleural plaques. They develop as white lesions with a rubbery consistency and may become calcified over time and are typically identified through imaging scans such as chest x-rays and CT scans.
It is estimated that around 36,000 to 90,000 people develop pleural plaques in the UK each year, but many people have them without knowing about them. Very rarely, some patients experience symptoms such as chest pain, cough or slightly difficult breathing that are usually related to other co-occurring conditions and not the plaques themselves.
Since the condition is usually benign and does not cause symptoms on its own, you may not be entitled to claim pleural plaques compensation.
What are the symptoms of pleural thickening?
Under normal circumstances, the pleurae allow the lungs to move smoothly while breathing. As a result of pleural thickening, the pleural membrane loses elasticity, which can impair lung function. In the early stages, the condition is often asymptomatic. The symptoms become more severe over time and include the following:
- Dull, chronic chest pain
- Shortness of breath, even with little effort
- Difficulty breathing and catching your breath
- Difficulty taking deep breaths and chest tightness
- Pain when coughing, inhaling or exhaling
- Respiratory failure
Depending on the cause of pleural thickening, you may experience additional symptoms. Pleural thickening may develop alongside other conditions, such as pleural plaques and pleural effusion. Differential diagnosis is essential to develop the appropriate treatment plan.
The symptoms of pleural thickening can be debilitating and affect your ability to work and enjoy a good quality of life. If you feel you may have a valid claim for pleural thickening compensation, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.
Pleural thickening increases the risk that you may develop other, more severe, asbestos-related diseases. Thus, if you have a valid pleural thickening claim, it might not be sensible to agree to a final compensation amount straight away.
Your solicitor will be able to advise on whether you may benefit more from asking for provisional compensation, with the agreement that you can return to court if your lung condition worsens.
What causes pleural thickening?
Exposure to asbestos is the most common cause of pleural thickening. Microscopic asbestos fibres that become lodged in the pleura cause inflammation, resulting in a build-up of fibrous scar tissue and subsequent thickening of the pleura.
However, any disease or condition that causes acute inflammation of the membrane can lead to pleural thickening, including:
- Infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia
- Radiation exposure
- Lung cancer
- Rheumatoid lung disease
- Injury to the ribs, such as blunt trauma or falls
- Benign or malignant tumours
- Coronary artery bypass grafting surgery
- Pleural effusions
- Pulmonary embolisms
- Some types of medication
The cause of pleural thickening can influence the location, severity and progression of the condition, as well as the symptoms you might experience. It is essential to find out what has caused pleural thickening and inform your doctor if you have had a history of asbestos exposure.
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with pleural thickening, you might be eligible to claim compensation. Besides asbestos exposure, you may also have a valid pleural thickening claim if you developed the condition due to the following:
- A road traffic accident
- An accident at work
- A slip or trip injury
- Medication errors
- Medical negligence
- An accident in public
- A violent crime
Regardless of what caused your condition, you can enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser. They can let you know if you are entitled to compensation and answer any questions you may have.
Who is at risk of developing pleural thickening?
People who work in industries where asbestos is regularly used are at a higher risk of developing pleural thickening. Pleural thickening can develop within a year of exposure or many years later, and multiple studies show that it affects between 5% to 13.5% of asbestos-exposed workers.
Asbestos exposure can occur through a wide range of contexts, including:
House products: asbestos can be present in thousands of home and consumer products, such as:
- Electrical components
- Hot water and steam pipes
- Wall insulation
- Heat-resistant materials
- Talcum powder
- Fake snow
- Children’s toys, crayons and clay
Anyone could unknowingly be in contact with asbestos, as there may be low levels of it anywhere in the air, water or soil, but these don’t generally pose a health threat. The highest risk of developing pleural thickening is run by people who have directly worked with asbestos, such as:
- Shipbuilding and naval service
- Automobile industry
- Building demolition
- Waste management
- Power station workers
- Asbestos mining and milling
- Construction and building trades
- The textile industry and fabric milling
- Manufacture of plastics, rubber, chemicals or flooring
- Railway construction
Individuals who work with asbestos can transport the dangerous fibres on their hair, clothes and skin and increase the risk of family members developing an asbestos-related disease such as pleural plaques or thickening due to secondary exposure. This does not affect their right to claim pleural thickening compensation from your employer or former employer.
What treatment is available for pleural thickening?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for pleural thickening, and once the damage has been done, it is irreversible. In most cases, the condition does not require any special treatment, as its symptoms are not life-threatening.
If the symptoms worsen and interfere with daily activities as the condition progresses, treatment is limited to supportive and symptomatic care and includes:
- Guidance on quitting smoking, as smoking further reduces lung function and increases the risk of developing other respiratory illnesses which may aggravate pleural thickening and worsen symptoms;
- Keeping active;
- Pulmonary rehabilitation aims to help patients regain stamina using breathing exercises and nutrition;
- Oxygen therapy is a treatment that provides you with extra oxygen to breathe in if symptoms are severe;
- Pleurectomy surgery is an aggressive treatment reserved for severe cases that involves removing part of the pleural membrane.
Pleural thickening may go on to develop into lung cancer or mesothelioma. It should be regularly monitored through x-rays, lung function tests, or by taking a biopsy from the thickened pleural membrane.
How much pleural thickening compensation could I claim?
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with pleural thickening due to someone else’s negligence, you might be entitled to make a pleural thickening claim. The amount of pleural thickening or pleural plaques compensation you might receive depends on the details of your case and covers two types of damages:
Special damages are awarded for financial losses and expenses, such as:
- Medical expenses related to exams, diagnostic tests and treatments
- Costs of care and assistance
- Cost of medical aids such as inhalers and oxygen breathing machines
- Travel expenses and accommodation
- Lost wages, including future loss of earnings
- Rehabilitation and therapy sessions
- Loss of ability to do DIY, gardening and other types of domestic tasks
- Home adaptations to support your recovery
General damages are awarded for the impact the illness has on your lifestyle and the physical effects it causes you, including:
- Physical pain and disability
- Mental trauma and emotional distress
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Reduced quality of life and life expectancy
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Inability to pursue a hobby or leisure activity
Your solicitor will determine how much your pleural thickening claim is worth and will reach out to the other side to negotiate a fair compensation award for your pain and suffering. According to the guidelines published by the Judicial College, the general damages part of the compensation award could be:
- £36,060 to £99,330 for severe pleural thickening
- £14,140 to £36,060 for moderate pleural thickening
- £65,710 to £118,150 if you developed lung cancer or mesothelioma
These pleural thickening compensation awards refer only to general damages. The compensation for special damages is worked out separately and includes the past and future economic losses and expenses related to the pleural thickening illness.
What is the time limit to make a pleural thickening claim?
Under the Limitation Act 1980, you have three years to make a personal injury claim after the date of an accident or negligent event. However, pleural thickening may take years or even decades to show symptoms after initial exposure, so the legal time limit to claim pleural thickening or pleural plaques compensation does not depend on the date of exposure.
Instead, you usually have three years to make a pleural thickening claim after you were diagnosed with the disease, known as the date of knowledge. If you do not take legal action within the time limit, your case becomes statute-barred, and you will likely lose the chance to claim compensation. The court may overrule the three-year limitation date based on:
- The length and reason for your delay
- The timeline and severity of your symptoms
- Whether you asked for a second medical opinion after the initial diagnosis
There are several exceptions to the three-year limitation date to make a pleural thickening claim, such as:
- If a child was diagnosed with the condition, a parent or another litigation friend could claim pleural plaques compensation at any time on their behalf. The three-year time limit only starts once they turn 18 and can conduct legal proceedings themselves.
- If the claimant lacks the mental capacity to make a claim, the time limit is suspended. A person could lack mental capacity due to:
- An intellectual disability such as Down syndrome
- A neurodegenerative condition like Alzheimer’s disease
- A traumatic brain injury or stroke
- A mental health disorder such as schizophrenia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- The three-year countdown begins if the victim regains the ability to handle their case.
- If a loved one passed away due to complications of pleural thickening, you could claim compensation within three years after their death or from the date you realised asbestos exposure may have caused their illness.
Regardless of what time limit may apply to your situation, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Preparing a pleural thickening claim might take a lot of time, especially if you are unsure what caused it or your former employer is no longer trading.
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410 or enter your details into our online claim form to receive a call back. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a pleural plaques or pleural thickening claim and can answer any questions you may have.
Can I claim on behalf of a loved one who died from pleural thickening?
Losing a loved one due to another person’s negligence is devastating. While no amount of money can help you cope with the grief and make you feel better, pleural thickening compensation could help ease the financial strain you might be under due to your loss.
Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, you can claim compensation if you qualify as a dependant of the deceased, such as:
- Their spouse or former spouse
- Their civil partner or former civil partner
- A partner living with them for at least two years before their death
- A parent or another ascendant and anyone treated as a parent
- Their child or another descendant and anyone treated as a child
- A brother, sister, uncle or aunt
If you relied on the deceased, you could make two types of dependency claims:
- Financial dependency – takes into account the loss of income from the deceased, such as lost wages, pensions, bonuses, investments and any other alternative sources of income, and compensates for the financial benefits expected from the deceased.
- Loss of service dependency – includes gardening, property maintenance, DIY chores and other services the deceased would have provided. The compensation award for loss of service dependency can be hard to establish, as some services do not have a specific financial price.
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 also allows you to claim compensation for funeral expenses and the financial losses incurred between the date of the diagnosis and the date of death, such as:
- Lost earnings
- Medical expenses
- Costs of care and assistance
- The cost of a memorial or monument
- The headstone
- Embalming the body
A limited number of dependants also qualify for a bereavement award. These include spouses, civil partners and the parent of an unmarried child under 18. There is only one bereavement award which is currently £15,120, and it must be divided between the eligible claimants and acts as recognition that your loved one suffered a wrongful death.
Can I still claim if my employer has gone out of business?
You may be able to make a successful pleural plaques or thickening claim even if your employer is no longer trading. In fact, given how long it can take to develop pleural thickening after asbestos exposure, it is often the case that a former employer has gone out of business.
However, pleural thickening solicitors have the expertise to track down your former employer or their insurer. The dangers of asbestos exposure have been known since the beginning of the 20th century, and employers have had to take insurance against personal injury claims for asbestos-related diseases since 1972.
If your employer is no longer trading, pleural thickening compensation is normally paid by your former employer’s insurer. Even if you were exposed to the toxic mineral decades ago, your solicitor could still help you find the responsible party so that you can access the compensation you deserve.
According to the guidelines dictated by the Health and Safety Executive, your employer should have implemented all reasonable measures to keep you safe from the risks associated with asbestos exposure, including:
- Avoid asbestos exposure whenever possible
- Provide appropriate training and information to those working with asbestos
- Minimise asbestos dust by keeping materials damp
- Make sure asbestos waste is clearly marked
- Use special double-bag vacuum cleaners
- Provide adequate and free-of-charge personal protective equipment such as face masks
If your employer neglected their duties, you might be entitled to receive pleural plaques compensation, even if you developed the condition decades later and they are no longer trading.
What is provisional compensation?
Provisional compensation or provisional damages is a type of settlement awarded to claimants whose injuries have a chance of severe deterioration or resulting in a secondary disease. They are particularly common in pleural thickening claims, as the condition can get progressively worse and develop into mesothelioma, a fatal and aggressive type of cancer.
Your solicitor will be able to advise on whether you should pursue a full and final settlement or claim provisional compensation. A provisional settlement allows you to preserve the right to come back and claim further compensation if you contract another asbestos condition at a later date.
Provisional damages give you peace of mind knowing that you will be able to go on to secure additional compensation should your condition worsen. For this to be possible, the chance of future deterioration must be measurable and not fanciful, and the additional disease or deterioration must be serious.
Will I be offered a no win no fee service?
If you have a valid pleural thickening claim, your solicitor will offer you a no win no fee service. This means that you can pursue compensation regardless of your financial situation and without taking any financial risks.
In a no win no fee claim, you do not have to pay any upfront fees to your solicitor. Under this conditional fee agreement, they will offer you free support and advice throughout the claims process, and you do not have to pay them a single penny if your claim is unsuccessful.
As part of your no win no fee agreement, they will also help you take out an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy. The ATE insurance provides full financial coverage for the legal expenses and the disbursements incurred during claiming if your case fails, including:
- The defendant’s solicitor fees
- Court and counsel fees
- Medical reports
- Expert witness fees
- Barrister fees if your case goes to trial
There is no financial risk involved in pursuing compensation on a no win no fee basis, which makes it the preferred way to fund a pleural thickening claim. You only have to pay anything if your claim is successful, which would include:
- Some basic legal fees that cannot be recovered from the defendant
- The cost of the ATE insurance policy
- A success fee
The success fee is paid to your solicitor for the risk they took by offering you a conditional fee agreement, meaning they would be unable to recoup their costs if your case failed. The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your compensation for general damages and past financial losses, and it will be discussed and agreed upon from the outset.