The UK has seen a test case into asbestos compensation begin this week, which will determine whether insurers are to be held liable from a person’s initial exposure to the potentially deadly carcinogenic or from the time that the person becomes ill. The decision will be made by the high court following the test case.

Officials from the trade union Unite have accused insurers of trying to dodge their responsibilities, and are backing workers that have been affected by exposure to asbestos, which can cause a range of health problems including respiratory problems, scarring of the lungs, and a form of deadly cancer known as mesothelioma.

With instances of mesothelioma now coming to light resulting from exposure in the 1970s – as this disease can take thirty or forty years to develop – insurers are expected to pay out a fortune in compensation to those affected. Asbestos related diseases are the biggest cause of work related deaths in the UK .

Some insurance firms have said that it is unfair to pay from the time that the person was first exposed, as the person could have been exposed to asbestos in one of a number of places.

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