4 Feb 2014
Mesothelioma Sufferers Get Access To Compensation Of Sorts
With more than 50,000 people predicted to die from Mesothelioma, MLA’s Dave Edmondson reviews the impact of the Mesothelioma Bill’s approval by the House of Commons.
It may not have been headline news but the government’s deal on the Mesothelioma Bill last month has faced heavy criticism from MPs and personal injury solicitors. Labour MP John Woodcock even accused Work and Pensions Minister Mike Penning of having ‘blinked too early’ in negotiations with the insurance industry. Dave Edmondson explains: “You may not even have heard of Mesothelioma but as one of the UK’s leading agencies in the field, we, at MLA, have been following developments closely. An aggressive form of cancer, caused by exposure to asbestos, Mesothelioma can often take 40 to 50 years to manifest itself.
It is fatal and, after diagnosis, the average time until death is about nine months.” “The Bill means sufferers and their dependants will be able to get damages from a £350m ten year compensation fund, which will be paid for by the insurance industry, and that they will be entitled to 75% of the average settlement paid out in civil actions relating to mesothelioma, expected to be about £115,000.” “Those diagnosed after 25 July 2012, who cannot sue former employers because they have gone into liquidation or because insurance details have disappeared will also be eligible.” Ministers called it a “major breakthrough” to “end an injustice”.
But critics have called the cut-off date arbitrary. Mr Penning defended the deal as the most pragmatic way to get the scheme up and running quickly. Matthew Stockwell, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, called the scheme a ‘valuable first step’ but says it doesn’t offer mesothelioma sufferers the justice they deserve, “It is bad enough that victims are exposed to deadly asbestos just by turning up for work, then forced to use this scheme because insurance records are no longer around. Now they are to be penalised by losing a quarter of what the courts determine is fair redress.”
About 2,400 people die in the UK annually from the disease. Incidences will peak in the next few years thanks to the ban on asbestos but it’s estimated that between 56,000 and 63,000 people – mainly men – will die over the next three decades with Cancer charities predicting a peak between 2016 and 2017. Dave continues: “Sadly we are now also beginning to see this despicable disease showing in sufferers’ siblings thanks to their contact with unsuspecting fathers as they came in from work and hugged their children whilst still in overalls.
The extent of this type of case, caused by children inhaling minute asbestos fibres, is just unknown.” “While some victims have taken legal action to recover damages in the past, many have been deterred because of the processes, stress and costs involved. Also, the speed with which Mesothelioma takes hold means many sufferers die before their cases are heard. The cause of the disease is a sad legacy of our industrial history but at least modern communications are connecting victims and their families. They can share their stories on forums, join discussion groups for support and campaign for justice on social media.” “Add their number to those affected by asbestosis, vibration white finger, dermatitis, industrial deafness and the other areas in which we operate, and that’s a lot of people ready, willing and able to take legal action. If you’d like to know more about how we can help in such circumstances, give us a call. Leanne, Amy, Ellie and I are happy to discuss the evidence we can provide with you."