The direct cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. The fibers of this mineral get into lungs and make irreversible changes in tissues. This malignant disease also can affect other body organs, but there are no other mesothelioma causes except asbestos. The problem is that there are some industry spheres where there is no ability to avoid the contact with asbestos. For such work conditions employees have the right to obtain compensation from employers. The order of getting it is different for various countries.
While in the USA the major solution is filing a lawsuit against employer, in Europe people prefer to resolve such issues without going to trial. Sometimes the laws act against the interests of asbestos victims or limit options for getting worthy compensation. For example in Belgium it is practically impossible to file a claim against employer that exposed a person to asbestos. In 1998 there was a law adopted that made possible for asbestos exposure victim to file a claim against employer, only if the employer committed an international fault. In 1999 this possibility was extended, but again the conditions were too strict to be applied.
One more problem for filing a claim for mesothelioma causes is the limitation term for the victims of occupational diseases: a plaintiff can sue the employer during 20 years since the exposure to asbestos. Taking into account that mesothelioma reveals itself only in 20-50 years after the exposure, there is no chance to be ‘in time’. The Belgian association of asbestos victims created in 2000 attempted to get gain more rights for asbestos victims, but its initiatives are mostly rejected.
In the Netherlands asbestos related diseases became the first type of occupational diseases for what legal claims were filed. There is no social insurance for occupational diseases in this country, there are only disability or sickness insurance systems. As opposite to many other EU countries, insurance here doesn’t cover separate occupational diseases from others. That is why the only way to obtain compensation for condition caused by professional reasons is filing a lawsuit. Such cases have gained popularity since 1990, and this has clear explanation: at this time more and more workers formerly contacting with asbestos began suffering from mesothelioma and other diseases caused by asbestos dust.
A lot of claims from the first wave brought favorable results, and this encouraged others to go the same way. The most of claims were settled, about 1000 were handled by lawyers and only 125 were decided by the courts. All this experience resulted in the new article of the Dutch Code of Civil Law that obliged employers to protect their employees from asbestos exposure and other sources of danger at work.
In Italy the negligence of employer regarding exposing workers to asbestos is considered not as a civil tort, but as a criminal activity. As a result a plaintiff may sue not a company, but a specific person (manager) responsible for the exposure. The result of such lawsuit will be not a financial compensation to a victim, but imprisonment and financial penalties.