Industrial diseases lawyer
Specialist industrial disease solicitor Adrian Budgen of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors today welcomed plans announced by the Government to speed up compensation for mesothelioma sufferers.
In a ministerial statement Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton today outlined a series of measures to help speed up the compensation process for sufferers of mesothelioma.
Plans include closer working with HM Revenue and Customs to trace employers' records more quickly, a helpline which will be set up by the Association of British Insurers, and a claims handling guide.
Claims handlers will be told to give priority to mesothelioma claims, ensuring that sufferers receive priority treatment from the beginning.
"These proposals are a positive step for mesothelioma sufferers, and follow the considerable progress being made to ensure that victims of mesothelioma get the justice they so urgently require said Adrian.
However further measures are needed to ensure that all mesothelioma sufferers receive compensation.
Compensation needs to be extended to sufferers in cases where insurers cannot be traced. An insurer of last resort, as is currently in place for victims of road traffic accidents, would mean that compensation would be paid to victims when no insurer could be found.
A system which makes it compulsory for employers to file details of insurers, and to ensure this information is updated regularly is needed.
Currently, in situations where employers have gone out of business and insurers have failed to keep records, or even destroyed them, victims are denied access to compensation.
I also hope that the Department of work and Pensions (DWP) will broaden the scope of the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit to include all victims of mesothelioma, so that family members exposed to asbestos dust brought into the home, and people exposed to asbestos dust in their neighbourhood will also receive appropriate help and support, said Adrian.
In June 2006 the House of Lords ruling on Barker, a widow who was denied the full compensation for the death of her husband, paved the way for victims of mesothelioma to be denied access to full compensation unless they were able to successfully sue all of their former employers who exposed them to asbestos.
Following the ruling, negligent employers are not liable to pay 100% compensation if other culpable employers have gone out of business and their insurers have not been found.
The judgment also means that claims could take much longer to conclude and makes them more difficult and time-consuming for victims and their families.
The Government is currently seeking to reverse the effects of the judgment by tabling amendments to the Compensation Bill.
Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer of the lung lining (the pleura) which develops as a result of inhaling asbestos dust, which can take between ten and sixty years to develop after exposure to asbestos.
Many men who worked in dockyards in the sixties developed mesothelioma in later life as a result of exposure to asbestos.
Over 1,800 people are affected by Mesothelioma every year in the UK.
The number of people suffering from mesothelioma is expected to increase significantly over the next 10-15 years.
65,000 people are expected to die of mesothelioma in the UK between 2002 and 2050, and 250,000 Western Europe by 2035.
The average survival from diagnosis is only a year or so.