Government action "imperative" to protect future mesothelioma sufferers
A leading North East industrial illness lawyer has called for the Government to create a central insurance fund that will help provide support to UK workers dying of Mesothelioma and other industry-linked diseases.
The majority of mesothelioma sufferers develop the condition after negligent exposure to asbestos while at work, but symptoms can take up to 60 years or more to appear and this can make it difficult or even impossible, to trace the insurer responsible for meeting any claim where the employer company has ceased trading.
Roger Maddocks, partner and industrial illness specialist at the North East office of national law firm Irwin Mitchell, says where a company has ceased trading that, without an insurer in place, it is impossible to complete a compensation claim that could help provide support and care to thousands of current and future mesothelioma sufferers.
The problem is particularly acute when dealing with traditional North East industries such as shipbuilding, where many employers have now ceased to operate. North and South Tyneside, Newcastle, Sunderland and Hartlepool are among the top 20 areas in the UK worst affected by mesothelioma.
Mr Maddocks now wants to see the creation of an Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB), which would give workers protection similar to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which pays out on compensation claims for road users hit by uninsured and untraced drivers.
Mr Maddocks, speaking ahead of Action Mesothelioma Day on February 27th, said the creation of an ELIB, along with a comprehensive database of insurers, would be of enormous benefit as the UK looks to cope with an estimated annual mesothelioma-related death rate of 2,450 people by 2015.
Mr Maddocks said: "With all mesothelioma claims, time is of the essence – it is a fatal and vicious disease that usually kills its victims within 12 months – and a database of insurers would help speed up the claim process. The ELIB would provide a vital last-resort in those cases where an insurer cannot be traced.
"We want to see adequate protection put in place for people whose only crime was breathing the air around them. Society does not require people to drive cars but it does require people to work – yet workers are not protected as much as motorists in this respect.
"Thousands of people in the UK who spent their lives working hard, often in very poor conditions, have now been stricken down by mesothelioma and the death rates look set to increase further over the next decade.
"Irwin Mitchell has been campaigning for a central insurance fund for some time now and the momentum is growing – but it is a race against time. The Government must act sooner rather than later to ensure that we can secure justice for every Mesothelioma sufferer – not just those who can trace their former employer’s liability insurer."
With cases of mesothelioma in the UK estimated to reach a peak around 2015, and with increasing numbers of people from non-industrial backgrounds also developing the disease, for example nurses and teachers, Mr Maddocks says it is imperative that the Government takes action now to ensure current and future sufferers of slow-developing diseases are protected.