MPs Urged To Amend Mesothelioma Bill

Expert Lawyer Calls For Asbestos Victims To Receive Fair Settlements From Government

03.01.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Specialist lawyers from Irwin Mitchell are urging MPs to amend the Mesothelioma Bill currently going through Parliament to ensure sufferers of the terminal asbestos-related cancer receive ‘fairer’ settlements.

The Mesothelioma Bill, is undergoing a final revision process and is set to be debated once again in the House of Commons on Tuesday 7th January 2014.

However current proposals set out in the Bill would provide those sufferers from the asbestos-related disease who cannot trace a relevant employers’ liability insurance policy with just 75 per cent of an average civil compensation payout – something lawyers and victims believe is unfair.

Now campaigners, including the Forum of Asbestos Victims Support Groups-UK, law firm Irwin Mitchell and MPs across all parties are urging the Government to agree a last minute amendment raising this payment to 80 per cent. Irwin Mitchell’s research shows that if payouts are capped at 75 per cent of average compensation, mesothelioma victims may miss out on around £43,000 based on a typical settlement.

Expert lawyers at the firm, who have written to MPs of all parties about the Bill, say victims are very disappointed that settlements, which would be paid out under the new scheme, are to be limited to victims of mesothelioma only, and are intended to be 25 per cent lower than the current average compensation for people suffering from the asbestos-related cancer.

These funds provide some financial security for loved ones as well as paying for care, aids and equipment during the final stages of the illness.

Adrian Budgen, Head of the National Asbestos-Related Disease team at Irwin Mitchell who has represented thousands of victims, said: “It takes decades from the initial exposure to asbestos for symptoms of a related illness to appear, but once they do the consequences are devastating for those families affected.

“In some situations it is impossible to find evidence of victims’ employers’ insurance records where firms have ceased to exist many years ago. While the Government has tried to address this issue with the promise of a scheme to help those who cannot trace a relevant employers’ liability insurance policy, many asbestos victims will be left high and dry by the technicalities in the proposals.”

It is understood that the 75 per cent figure is to prevent the insurers passing on the costs to businesses in the form of higher premiums for employers’ liability insurance, but over the long term, a payment of 80 per cent of average compensation would keep the payments below a threshold identified by the insurance industry and should prevent them passing on costs to businesses.

Budgen added: “Obviously, receiving 75 per cent of the average compensation is better than nothing but by only providing victims and their families with a fraction of the typical amount means mesothelioma victims will miss out on tens of thousands of pounds.

“This also doesn’t take into account that no two cases are alike and the individual circumstances of each person and their family are completely different. It is particularly hard to understand when the Financial Services Compensation Scheme provides 90 per cent compensation.

“Mesothelioma cases by their very nature are complex, often going back 40-50 years and involving very detailed investigations. Mesothelioma victims have faced many legal challenges in recent years. This is yet another one. What they really deserve is full and fair financial security for their families.”

It is estimated that more than 300 mesothelioma sufferers a year miss out on compensation solely because their former employer’s insurers cannot be traced as a result of serial failures by the insurance industry to keep proper records. From January 1972 it was compulsory for employers to have Employers’ Liability insurance cover and the evidence is that the overwhelming majority of businesses had it before then.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in mesothelioma compensation claims.