25 July 2012
The Government today published its response to its February 2010 consultation on providing compensation to mesothelioma
sufferers who cannot trace insurance.
Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos
is a natural insulating material which was very commonly used in the workplace in the 1960’s and 1970’s, often by employers acting negligently, or in breach of safety legislation.
The disease usually takes decades to manifest and many mesothelioma sufferers are prevented from bringing a legal claim because records about their employers and their insurers have been lost over time. Leigh Day & Co has long campaigned for a “Fund of Last Resort” to compensate mesothelioma victims who cannot bring a legal claim on this basis.
The Government has now announced that it will establish a “Support Scheme” for people with mesothelioma who were exposed to asbestos through their employer’s negligence and cannot trace a defendant or insurer. Whilst details of the Scheme are awaited, the Government paper confirms the following:
- The Scheme will only apply to mesothelioma.
- It will only be open to those diagnosed on or after 25 July 2012.
- It will only apply to those exposed to asbestos at work and where no insurer can be traced.
- Awards under the Scheme will be more than current state benefits, but less than current court awards.
- It will be funded by the insurance industry.
The Scheme arguably does not go far enough and means that claimants who cannot trace insurance will still be undercompensated compared to those who can trace insurance.
There also remains a significant amount of uncertainty over the Scheme and whether it will be open to dependents (e.g. widows or widowers) which, given the limited life expectancy of mesothelioma sufferers, must be essential to the proper working of any scheme.
Most importantly, the Scheme fails to capture those who were diagnosed before 25 July 2012 and there appears to be no reasonable justification for the date, notably when the consultation has been outstanding for over two years. There will be further delays before it is implemented because the changes will require primary legislation.
Partner Daniel Easton
“We welcome any movement to ensure mesothelioma sufferers receive the compensation they deserve. However, these measures could go much further and many mesothelioma victims will still be undercompensated and not receive the damages they are due, which typically arise in devastating circumstances giving rise to huge uncertainty for the future.
It also offers very little comfort to the people I currently act for who are already diagnosed with mesothelioma. The arbitrary date of 25 July bears no relevance to the development of this disease and it is a devastating blow that someone who is diagnosed on 24 July may receive nothing compared to somebody diagnosed two days later. We urge the Government to reconsider and extend the Scheme to cover other victims”.
To speak to one of our specialist asbestos and mesothelioma claims lawyers please contact Daniel Easton
, Harminder Bains
or Vijay Ganapathy
on 020 7650 1200
for a free consultation.
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