Due to a formal request by several Members of Parliament, the Federal German Government published a 13-page statement on asbestos-related diseases in Germany dated 31 July 2013 (The statement is in German language only. It is available under http://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/17/144/1714465.pdf).

The statement provides a vast amount of empirical data on asbestos cases handled by the German Social Occupational Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung – DGUV) between 1994 and 2010. Please find below a summary of the most prominent statements:

  • It is estimated that 500,000 people in Europe will die from asbestos-related diseases by 2020.
  • Each year in Germany, 1,500 people allegedly die from asbestos-related diseases caused by occupational asbestos exposure. People who develop illnesses through non-occupational asbestos exposure are not included in this figure.
  • Between 1994 and 2010, differentiating between particular asbestos-related diseases, the DGUV covered claims to the extent outlined below:
    • Asbestosis: 64,117 people applied for DGUV insurance coverage; about 50% of the applications were granted; EUR 427,947,317 Mio. compensation payments
    • Lung or throat cancer: 45,930 people applied for DGUV insurance coverage; about 20-40% of the applications were granted; EUR 539,595,653 Mio. compensation payments
    • Mesothelioma: 18,346 people applied for DGUV insurance coverage; about 80% of the applications were granted; EUR 323,525,859 Mio. compensation payments.

The statement of the German Federal Government shows that many people suffering from an allegedly asbestos-related disease do not receive compensation from the DGUV. It is natural to conclude that people without DGUV insurance coverage will be more likely to seek compensation from employers, former manufacturers, distributors and importers. However, there is in fact hardly any information available to suggest that there is widespread asbestos litigation in Germany. Looking at the numbers of insurance refusals documented by the German Federal Government in its statement (about 50% regarding asbestosis, about 60-80% regarding lung or throat cancer and about 20% regarding mesothelioma), this comes as a surprise. It appears that – despite the significant number of insurance refusals – people are not interested in seeking compensation through litigation. The main reason for this might be the fact that almost everybody in Germany has a statutory health insurance that generally steps in if the DGUV does not grant coverage. Nonetheless, the data published by the German Federal Government indicates that there is a significant number of potential claimants who might begin to consider seeking compensation by launching legal actions against national and international companies and trusts.