Lawyer Stresses Importance Of Current Funding Regime In Protecting Asbestos Victims and Their Devastated Families
A leading lawyer repeated calls for the Government to rethink ‘potentially devastating’ no win, no fee funding changes after the latest statistics revealed that asbestos related deaths have risen yet again.
Asbestos experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell said the year on year increase was indicative of a ‘worrying trend’, and again demonstrated the need for vital funding to be made available for victims, and the families of victims, who are negligently exposed to the deadly dust through no fault of their own.
The latest national mesothelioma death statistics, released by the Health and Safety Executive, found that in 2009 2,321 people died from fatal asbestos-related diseases, a three percent rise from 2008 when the figure stood at 2,249. The year before saw a four per cent increase.
Commenting on the figures, Adrian Budgen from Irwin Mitchell who heads up a team of asbestos related disease experts, said: “These statistics reveal worrying trends. The numbers of females diagnosed with mesothelioma are increasing at a greater rate than men, a pattern which causes us great concern.
“It’s alarming that the North East of England again has the highest male death rate per million people, with a staggering 98.7 men per million people dying between 2007-2009, with the next closest region being the South East with a death rate of 75.3 men per million.
“Nationally, asbestos deaths are yet again on the increase, and the worst case prediction for males is that numbers will peak around the year 2016.”
He concluded: “Irwin Mitchell has handled hundreds of mesothelioma cases and continues to the see the terrible impact of asbestos on people’s lives all over the country – and unfortunately we know there is worse still to come.”
The statistics have been released in the same week that the controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill was passed by the Commons despite fierce opposition from campaigners who argued that changes to no win-no fee agreements would prevent some people from accessing justice and defending themselves in court.
Budgen continued: “No win no fee funding, also known as a Conditional Fee Agreement, often enables people whose lives have been torn apart by asbestos disease to pursue their battle for justice.
“Losing a loved one to an asbestos related disease, like mesothelioma, is devastating for families and often the thought of pursuing a legal case is a daunting prospect. Families have enough to worry about at a time of receiving news of a loved one’s terminal illness without the additional worry of potentially paying their own legal costs when they have been the victim of an employer’s negligence.
“With this in mind, it is likely that more families than ever will need access to no win no fee funding to progress their cases. The current system works for the injured party, not against, and I’d urge the coalition Government to seriously rethink its plans for the benefit of asbestos victims, and their families.”
The devastated widow of a man who died of asbestos-related cancer on New Year’s Day has urged the Government to rethink its plans to make changes to no win no fee funding.
Supported by experts in asbestos law from Irwin Mitchell, Celia Douthwaite, 68, from Wetherby, is launching legal action against her husband’s former employers as it is believed he was exposed to deadly asbestos dust through his work as a joiner in his former workplace.
Devoted husband and dad-of-three Ean was 70 when he died in January from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres.
His family say that without the current system of no win no fee funding, also known as CFA (Conditional Fee Agreements), they may not have been able to pursue a claim against Ean’s former employers as they could have faced paying costs.
Commenting on her family’s ordeal, Celia said: “To lose Ean was utterly devastating. The last thing we expected when he started to become breathless was the news that the work he’d done many years before as a joiner working with sheets of asbestos would kill him. And to lose him on New Year's Day, such a special family time, was almost too much to bear.
“He was such a huge part of all our lives, a real family man, and the main carer for our son Peter who has Rieger's syndrome, we all relied on him so much.”
She goes on to explain: “Nothing can ever replace Ean or the huge hole losing him has left in our lives but he would have wanted us to be secure financially in the future, and for us to be compensated for losing him to this dreadful illness caused by nothing more than him going to work and not being looked after properly by his employer.
“I fear for others who are in the same position and will be put off making a claim because could face having to pay some of their own costs. I’m behind the campaign to stop this from happening 100 per cent and hope people who can influence this decision sit up and listen to my story.”
Celia’s call comes as The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill was passed by the Commons, despite opposition from other victims, families and asbestos support groups across the country who have written to MPs and ministers urging them to vote against civil litigation reform.
Our expert mesothelioma lawyers will provide you with free initial advice on your compensation claim if you or a loved on has been diagnosed with mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. See our Asbestos-Related Disease Claims Guide for more information.