Procedures for paying compensation for asbestos-related diseases vary from country to country and often from state to state. In some jurisdictions, government schemes are the only source of financial recompense, in others civil litigation is the prime remedy. Mixed systems exist in some nations which allow claimants to opt for state benefits or sue former employers, manufacturers or suppliers for negligence. Unfortunately there are countries where neither state nor corporate compensation is paid for asbestos-related disease [Recent Developments Affecting European Compensation Claims, Asbestos Compensation in Europe, Belgian Asbestos Fund, The Asbestos Relief Trust].
Many asbestos victims believe that state-backed funds, such as the one in Switzerland (SUVA), are set up primarily as a way of insulating companies from the bad publicity attracted by lawsuits from dying employees [Swiss Blood Money: Too Little to Stem the Tide, International Asbestos Conference for Fair and Equal Compensation for all Asbestos Victims and their Families].
Obtaining financial redress through the courts for asbestos-related illness is notoriously complex due to protracted latency periods, inaccurate diagnoses, multiple employers and the destruction of crucial documentation. Despite these difficulties, in recent years courts in several countries have reported a huge increase in the number of cases being brought [Mesothelioma Report, Australia: Escalation in Asbestos Litigation, Asbestos litigation in the U.S., Victory for Brazil's Asbestos Victims, Landmark Victories for Asbestos-Injured, Asbestos Litigation in Spain, Argentinean Asbestos Lawsuit in the U.S., Asbestos Pigeons Coming Home to Roost].
Compensation for asbestos-related diseases contracted through occupational exposure is the most widely available; relatively few victims of environmental exposure have succeeded in obtaining compensation for their injuries. A Dutch Government Scheme was the first one to make a lump sum payment to all mesothelioma sufferers, regardless of the source of their exposure. In 2008, the UK Government began a scheme which paid compensation to anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma regardless of the source of their UK exposure [A Helping Hand for Asbestos Victims].
In virtually every jurisdiction where compensation is payable for asbestos-related diseases, asbestos victims and their legal representatives have spent years fighting to change laws and procedures which prevented claims being brought. Negligent corporations have developed innovative strategies to avoid their asbestos-related liabilities. When Australia's major asbestos defendant, James Hardie, relocated to the Netherlands, asbestos victims' groups and trade unions instigated a major campaign to expose the corporation's duplicitous behavior [Prosecution of James Hardie, James Hardie Condemned!, James Hardie on the Run Again].
In the UK, the Forum of Asbestos Victims Support Groups lead efforts to publicize the potential impact on asbestos victims of plans by T&N Ltd., formerly the UK's Asbestos Giant, to reorganize its financial affairs [Turner & Newall Asbestos Victims Speak Out!, T&N's Insurance Loopholes Explored!, Landmark Demonstration Against Pleural Plaques Ruling].
Updated October 2009