The fight to reinstate compensation for pleural plaques is one of many challenges over the last five years following attempts by the insurance industry to erode the rights of asbestos victims.

The insurance industry has brought a string of high profile court battles in an attempt to avoid paying compensation to people with asbestos related conditions such as mesotheliomaasbestosis and pleural plaques.

Successful fight for mesothelioma victims

In 2006 the House of Lords dramatically cut the amount of compensation payable to those suffering from mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs.

The ruling left victims of the devastating disease in limbo after the decision made it harder to bring a successful case against employers where there had been asbestos exposure with more than one company.

The ruling was only overturned after pressure from trade unions and lobby groups resulting in the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, stepping in to introduce legislation which restored the right to full compensation under the Compensation Act 2006.

Last year Thompsons Solicitors were successful in defending the rights of vulnerable asbestos victims and their families from insurers' attempts to avoid their liabilities in a test case backed by Unite the Union.

Following a nine week trial in the High Court the judge decided that Employers' Liability insurers would remain liable to pay compensation for mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos in the work place if they insured the employer at the time the asbestos exposure occurred.

The insurers had argued that the policies they sold, to insure employers against liability for workers who were injured or suffered illness due to work, were "triggered" by the development of the disease rather than by the exposure to asbestos.

Often the time lapse between exposure to the deadly dust and the development of mesothelioma can be 40 years or more.

If the insurance companies' defence had been successful it would have deprived thousands of asbestos victims and their families of their right to compensation.

The battle over pleural plaques began in 2004

The battle over pleural plaques began in 2004 with the insurance industry bringing a test case to end the right to compensation. It was unsuccessful in the High Court in 2005 but the insurers won at the Court of Appeal in 2006 and again in the House of Lords in 2007 saving an estimated £1.4bn.

Head of Asbestos Policy at Thompsons Solicitors, Ian McFall said: "The insurance industry have repeatedly attempted to challenge the rights of people who have suffered harm due to asbestos exposure. The insurers stood to save billions knowing that, if they won, they would be depriving ordinary working people of compensation for pain, suffering and financial hardship.”

This news story was also published by The Evening Chronicle.