Asbestos Lawyers Call For Government To Listen To Victims

Lawyers Say Proposals Would Be ‘Detrimental’ To Mesothelioma Sufferers And Call For Government to Abandon Current Insurer-led Plans


By Dave Grimshaw

Expert lawyers who have represented thousands of asbestos–related disease victims have urged the government to listen to the sufferers and abandon their plans to change the way mesothelioma victims seek justice for their horrific terminal illness.

As a consultation by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) on the proposals closes today, specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell echoed the view from victims’ support charities, saying the proposals are ‘one-sided’ and ‘highly detrimental’ to those suffering from the disease.

The call comes just a week after several charities including the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK, Mesothelioma UK, British Lung Foundation and Macmillan Cancer Support, met with Justice Minister Helen Grant MP to voice their concerns over both the proposals and how the consultation has been run to date.

Experts at Irwin Mitchell say the proposals will make it harder for deserving victims and their families to bring cases and could force claimants to accept offers to settle their cases which our research suggests would be on average around £20k to £30k lower than they currently receive through the existing process.

The claimants would also have to operate under a tight fixed-costs system while the defendants – who have negligently exposed them to asbestos in the first place – have an unlimited budget.

Adrian Budgen, partner and national head of the asbestos-related disease team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We have fought for decades to secure justice for asbestos victims. Now the Government risks wiping that out at a stroke, creating an unlevel playing field.

“These changes will impede access to justice for victims of mesothelioma. They will limit the ability to secure the level of compensation then need to provide them with essential support during their illness and the long-term financial support their families ‎will have lost.”

“In every case, the victim and their family are coming to terms with a devastating diagnosis. They deserve better than having to deal with drastic reductions in their resources available to them. They do not deserve a system which works against them and in the interests of their employer, the very company that exposed them to deadly asbestos dust decades previously.”

Expert Opinion
The Government has again listened to insurers’ arguments that a streamlined legal process designed only for the most straightforward claims should now be utilised in the cases of dying people with ‎some of the most complex and heavily contested claims in the personal injury arena.

Handing over control of the process to the defendant is quite simply frightening in terms of achieving justice for the victims and their families. We have seen many examples of poor conduct, with defendants dragging cases all the way to court before even offering a lower amount than the claimant is entitled to.

Mesothelioma victims should be centre stage in the Government’s proposals and serious weight should be given to their responses to the consultation. We share victims’ groups’ concerns that they have not been consulted and that the Government acknowledges that these proposals are from the ABI. As a result, this is a defendant-friendly agenda which would work against the interests of people dying from mesothelioma. That cannot be right.”
Adrian Budgen, Partner

Irwin Mitchell has identified a raft of simpler improvements to the current system including speeding up the production of medical records and employment records from the Government which can take 40 days or more, and increasing court resources to speed up the procedure for mesothelioma cases.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Asbestos Claims.