Government Must Protect Asbestos And Accident Victims, Says Lawyer

Expert Calls For Creation Of New Bureau

23.12.2010

Current and future victims of the killer dust asbestos face the possibility of dying without ever knowing if their families will receive financial security, say asbestos-related disease specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell.

Roger Maddocks, head of the workplace illness and accident team at Irwin Mitchell’s North East office wants to see the formation of an Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) that will:

• Meet claims from asbestos exposure victims who are unable to identify an insurer of their former employer

• Protect victims of accidents at work where no insurer can be traced

Maddocks is urging the Asbestos Sub-committee of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, which met last month for the first time since the election, to ensure the creation of an ELIB stays at the top of its agenda.

Maddocks said an ELIB would provide protection for people who will suffer a painful, premature but preventable death, and their families, because of the negligence of their employers. It would work in a similar way to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which has protected victims of uninsured drivers for the past 40 years.

He said: “Victims and their families need help now, not further discussions. A similar bureau has existed for years in the motor industry and it works – surely victims of asbestos, the biggest occupational killer of all time, deserve a similar fund of last resort.

“There are clear double standards at play – driving is optional yet drivers are protected by the MIB. Meanwhile society expects people to work, yet workers are not afforded any such protection – surely they have the right to return home safe and well at the end of the working day.

“They need it to provide for their needs while they are still alive and for their families after they have died a painful, premature death from an illness that was entirely preventable and caused by their employer’s negligence.

“As the situation now stands, they may be unable to obtain the financial security they are rightfully entitled to if their employers’ insurer cannot be traced. That cannot be fair or just, and this issue needs an immediate solution.

“If the Government is truly committed to fairness in society it will take urgent steps to see that innocent victims of asbestos disease and those who have been badly injured in accidents at work receive the compensation that they are legally entitled to.”

Maddocks said: “What we need is protection for people in those cases where, despite rigorous and comprehensive searches, no insurer can be found that is required to pay compensation. It is these people who are left with no access to justice for the shocking way they were treated by their former employers, and these people who need our help and protection.

“The recent Employer’s Liability Policy ‘Trigger’ Litigation case only served to underline the complexities of the insurance minefield that claimants face when attempting to access justice with regard to the way they have been exposed to asbestos.”