Berwickshire ex-miner receives £100,000 payout for COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease  day


November 15th is World COPD Day and national law firm Irwin Mitchell are supporting the British Lung Foundation (BLF) to raise awareness about the lung disease that kills around 30,000 people a year in the UK.

Sarah Tagg from Irwin Mitchell regularly represents victims of industrial disease and specialises in respiratory disease such as COPD.

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is a term that covers a number of lung conditions including chronic bronchitis (inflammation of the airways) and emphysema (damaged air sacs).

As the name suggests, the main problem is airway obstruction. In COPD, the lung airways are damaged and narrowed, which makes it harder for air to get in and out.

The symptoms of COPD vary depending on how bad it is. In mild cases, symptoms like a cough, phlegm and shortness of breath may be present during the winter or after a cold. In more severe cases, sufferers may be short of breath every day and have difficulty carrying out every day activities.

Workplace illness

One of Sarah's clients, a 69-year-old Berwickshire man with COPD has recently received over £100,000 in compensation from the Department of Trade and Industry.

The ex-miner from Spittal worked for British Coal from the age of 15 in the Bedlington and Lynemouth Collieries as a Power Loader, working on the coal face with the cutting machines.

When describing the conditions he said: "Sometimes I couldn't see for all the coal dust and I worked like this for more than 20 years."

At 37 he stopped working in the pits on his doctors advice after being diagnosed with emphysema. "I remember I couldn't get my breath and I felt ill for quite a long time.

"All my life I have had difficulty with breathing from the coal dust. It is impossible to imagine how it has affected me. There are some things that I can't possibly do. I can't explain how hard it is not being able to do things that people of my own age can do.

"I get tired so easily and can't do little chores around the house or the gardening. I feel like an invalid more or less.

Sarah Tagg said: "My client's emphysema has obviously impacted upon his lifestyle and he now needs assistance with every day tasks such as cleaning, shopping, DIY and decorating. His settlement reflects the help he has needed in the past and will need in the future as well as his increasing need for assistance with mobility."

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease claims

Occupations such as coal mining are a common cause of COPD, although the most common cause is smoking. The lung damage caused by smoking increases with the duration of smoking. Most people who develop COPD have been smokers for many years and are over 40.

Sarah added: "Our client has never smoked, but at Irwin Mitchell we have pursued many claims for miners who are smokers. Although this does mean a reduction is made for the smoking history, it does not mean ultimately that no compensation will be received."

After holding a conference on Asthma and COPD, Irwin Mitchell are donating all the proceeds to the British Lung Foundation. The £400 raised will go towards a COPD telephone helpline.

The BLF have found an alarming level of ignorance about the disease. More than three million people in the UK have COPD, but more than two million of them don't know it. The lung disease is the UK's fifth biggest killer, yet it is preventable and treatable.

This year the BLF is launching a national campaign to help find the missing millions who have the disease and is encouraging people to seek a correct diagnosis.

For more information on COPD or the Missing Millions campaign go to