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APIL slams ‘watered down justice’ for mesothelioma victims

Matthew Stockwell APIL president

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has slammed government ministers for not going far enough to ensure sufferers of the asbestos related killer disease mesothelioma can get the justice they deserve.

This came after ministers refused to increase the amount victims of the work-related cancer, who are unable to find the records of their employer’s insurance company, can claim from 75% to 80%.

Venting his disappointment at the decision, which was lost narrowly by vote, president of APIL Matthew Stockwell (pictured) said: “Under the scheme, mesothelioma victims will receive only 75% of the amount of compensation they would receive if they had been able to have their day in court.

“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 penalised by losing a quarter of what the courts determine is fair redress. This is not the justice that these people deserve.”

Despite the obvious flaws with the scheme it is a positive step in regards to the fact that something is actually being done to help support victims who have been left in this situation, a point Mr Stockwell did acknowledge.

The vote in the House of Commons saw a win in the favour of the insurance industries suggested offer with the extended compensation cap amendment defeated by 266 votes to 226.

The terms state that those people who were unable to make a claim due to the lack of insurance records will now receive 75% of the compensation, as long as they were diagnosed with the industrial disease on or after the 25th July 2012, which has been another point of contention.

Many have protested that the decision to restrict the Bill so that only people who were diagnosed after this date is morally wrong and excludes thousands of victims who have died or been diagnosed before this date.

It wasn’t just the personal injury industries that were to criticise the bill. Labour MP for Barrow-in-Furness, John Woodcock was one of several MP’s who lambasted the bill for not going far enough and insisted that a strong enough case had been made for the suggested increase.

Matthew Stockwell insisted that APIL would continue to campaign for other workers who have been ignored by the bill saying: “Help for mesothelioma victims in any form is crucial, and the scheme is at least a start. But there are many other workers affected by the heartbreaking consequences of workplace safety mismanagement. We will push the government to keep going and work to ensure full justice is available to all those who need it.”

Meanwhile the Work and Pensions Minister, Mike Penning, who pushed through the bill, defended the decision to oppose the suggested amendments claiming he had to be pragmatic to ensure the scheme is started and victims get redress immediately,

Mr Penning said: “The insurers did not come happily to the table to have this discussion which Lord Freud started, there were told to come, and the negotiations were based on what we could get agreement on without putting a further burden on business.

“We have to look at the context. Nothing had been done for so long, but now something is being done and insurance companies are not happy about it.

“I am restricted by the maths and our agreements. Could the insurers afford this? I have no doubt whatsoever that they could, but that is not the deal that has been struck. As has been said the house could decide to set the limit at 80%, but I want this bill to receive royal assent and for compensation to be paid in July.”

Mr Penning’s words display that once again the insurance company have got their way when it comes to negotiation over important legislation to provide access to justice.

The implication that the Government ministers buckled to meet the demands of the industry who are responsible for the Mesothelioma Bill being needed in the first place, just so that an agreement can be made to avoid burdening business is a bitter pill to swallow.

This was highlighted and remonstrated by Labour MP David Anderson who criticised the influence the insurance industry had over the government saying: “The insurance industry has bankrolled the Conservative Party for decades, and they have bankrolled his constituency and those of hundreds of Conservative members across the country. If  a trade union had exerted that much influence, we on this side of the House would have been nailed to the wall.”

Image source(s)

1. Insurance POST; http://www.postonline.co.uk/post/news/2296489/bereavement-damages-are-a-postcode-lottery-say-lawyers

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