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Lawyers Say Government’s New Asbestos Scheme ‘Does Not Put Victims First’

Mesothelioma Victim’s Family Describes New Law Excluding 1000s Of Sufferers As “Disgraceful”


By Dave Grimshaw

Specialist lawyers say thousands of families whose lives are torn apart because of terminal illness caused by exposure to asbestos are being given a ‘second rate solution’ by Government as a new law is confirmed in today’s Queen’s Speech.

Experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell who have represented thousands of asbestos victims over the past decade say that around 5,000 people are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease each year such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. 

The Government today claimed its new scheme would help those who cannot trace their former employer’s insurer but lawyers and victims today expressed their concerns and disappointment that thousands of sufferers will be denied full justice due to the technicalities of the scheme.

Lawyers and victims are disappointed that the settlements are reported likely to be 30 per cent lower than the current average compensation for people suffering from the asbestos-related cancer. Irwin Mitchell research suggests that mesothelioma victims may miss out on around £52,000 on average.  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.

An original scheme touted by the previous government in 2010 was meant to apply to all those with fatal asbestos-related conditions who could not trace an insurer but the new scheme has some caveats:
• It will apply only to people suffering from mesothelioma - excluding many other asbestos victims whose insurers also cannot be traced.
• The scheme will only apply to those diagnosed after 25 July 2012 which means yet more will be unable to access the justice they deserve.

Adrian Budgen, Head of the Asbestos-Related Disease team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “It can take several decades from the initial exposure to asbestos for symptoms of 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 since 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 an insurer, the law only applies to people with mesothelioma, which will leave around half of asbestos victims high and dry.

“There is also a suggestion that the amount provided to people will be around 70 per cent of the average compensation for mesothelioma victims. This doesn’t take into account that every case is individual and the needs of each person and family are completely different.”

It is estimated that more than 300 mesothelioma sufferers a year miss out on compensation because insurance documents for their employer have disappeared despite many of the policies being in force when it was compulsory to have employer liability insurance (from 1972 onwards).

Mesothelioma victim Tom Tynan worked at the Coles Brothers John Lewis store in Sheffield as an electrician, employed by Keith Boultbee Ltd which is now a defunct company. Mr Tynan was 55 when he died and leaves a widow, Stella, who is a classroom assistant and their three grown up sons.

An employers’ liability insurance policy cannot be traced for the period when worked at john lewis store from 1973 to the mid 1980s when he was exposed to asbestos while working at the stores. However because he was diagnosed with mesothelioma before July 2012, his family would not be entitled to justice under the new scheme.

Irwin Mitchell is working with the family to investigate the working conditions and to try to track down the insurance policy details.

Tom’s son, Michael, said: “It’s very disappointing that the insurance scheme will simply not provide for many thousands of victims and families. Employers’ Insurance was compulsory from 1972 so it seems convenient that some policies just seem to have disappeared. My father worked hard all his life so to find out that his employers had put him as risk of terminal illness by letting him go to work every day without the appropriate protection is just devastating.

“It’s disgraceful and just seems madness that people diagnosed just days apart with the same condition caused by asbestos exposure are set to be treated so differently. Payments from the scheme would give my mother some financial security as it was obviously a massive shock to us when he died so young.”

Adrian added: “It’s also important to remember that this is only the tip of the iceberg and there is an ongoing government consultations which is attempting to force the remaining mesothelioma cases to run under a portal scheme which would mean a further impact on access to justice for victims.”

“Mesothelioma cases by their very nature are complex, often going back 40-50 years and involving 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 – not to be fed into an automated process which will short change innocent victims, which is what is certain to happen if the Government continues to follow this agenda.”

Our expert mesothelioma claims team 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.