Procurator Fiscal: Asbestos-related deaths

Many family members and dependants are unaware that the Procurator Fiscals’ duty to investigate deaths from ‘industrial disease’ may potentially involve contact with the Procurator Fiscal and the police if a loved one dies from, or is suspected of dying from, an asbestos-related disease.

Many of those who are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease are also unaware that a past employer could be to blame for causing their condition by negligently exposing them to asbestos. This exposure may have occurred 40 years or more before diagnosis.

Our online resources are available to those who may find themselves in this situation and are seeking information.  Our welfare rights officers are also available to bereaved family members to guide you through what can be a very strenuous period. We will answer any questions you may have or simply be a listening ear at the most difficult of times.

Asbestos-related deaths

It is the duty of the Procurator Fiscal to investigate sudden, suspicious, accidental, unexpected and unexplained deaths when made aware of them. Specific categories of deaths must be further investigated by the Procurator Fiscal. These categories of deaths include those arising out of industrial diseases of the lungs, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer

The Procurator Fiscal has indicated where there has been a positive biopsy in life, diagnosing the industrial disease; it may be possible for the cause of death to be certified without the need for a Post Mortem, depending on what evidence of industrial disease was obtained during life.

We try to ensure, where possible, that families, particularly those who have a family member with mesothelioma, are aware of the possible implications after death.  It is of course for those family members to decide whether they wish to pursue a claim for compensation

Without definitive evidence of mesothelioma, from either an in life biopsy or post mortem, it may be extremely difficult for dependants to receive any civil compensation for the death of their loved one.

Mesothelioma Pro Forma

In March 2014 the introduction of a New Mesothelioma Pro Forma was agreed between the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and the Chief Medical Officer.  It was devised with the aim of reducing distress caused to relatives when a person diagnosed with mesothelioma or suspected of having mesothelioma dies.

Its intent is to distil information required by the PF through a structured consistent record, enabling the PF to make decisions expeditiously without always requiring a post-mortem to establish the facts required for a civil case for compensation to proceed.

The Scottish Government  publish guidance that offers practical advice at a time of bereavement:

Posthumous applications for Compensation & Benefit

If a dependant has died from an asbestos-related disease, it may be possible (depending on what asbestos-related disease they died from) for you to make posthumous applications for benefit/compensation for the following:

  • Personal injury (civil) claim
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers Compensation) Act 1979
  • Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme 2008
  • Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme 2014

There are time limits that apply to your right to pursue a posthumous claim for personal injury for the death of a dependant and there is normally a strict time limit of 12 months from the date of death to claim state (government) benefits/compensation.

Wills, Probate and Inheritance

Dealing with a deceased’s estate

When dealing with a deceased’s estate, you may have been told that you need legal authority before any money and other property, belonging to the deceased, can be released. It is often a bank, building society or insurance company that will ask for this.

You may also be asked for ‘confirmation’ by the Jobcentre Plus (DWP) if the deceased has an outstanding application to the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 or Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme 2008

Bereavement & Other Benefits/Payments

There are also a number of other benefits/payments that are not related to whether the sufferer died from asbestos-related disease or not and may be available to you. This could be financial assistance to help with the costs of a funeral for a loved one or additional benefits for a widow or widower.

Compensation and Benefits Advice Service

Our welfare rights team is here to provide support,  answer your questions and assist with your applications for benefit.  If you just need someone to talk things over with, please get in touch.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
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Last reviewed: February 2020