Lawyers welcome U-turn over changes to mesothelioma claims process

This article was published on: 12/5/13

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Personal injury lawyers have welcomed the government’s decision to reject the insurance industry suggested changes to the way compensation claims for terminal cancer patients are handled.

Insurers had been pursuing the possibility of a fixed fee regime for claims relating to severe industrial illnesses such as mesothelioma but the Ministry of Justice, today, brought these plans to a halt.

Justice Minister, Shailesh Vara who only took over the role in this years government reshuffle, told the House of Commons: “Mesothelioma is an awful condition which can destroy lives in a frighteningly short amount of time and we want to do everything we can to help sufferers and their families.

“We will be working closely with victims, their representatives, insurers and other over the next few months to establish the best way to get claims settled fairly and quickly.”

The news has been welcomed by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) with representative Karl Tonks releasing a statement saying: “Recognition that the consultation proposals would not help to settle cases quickly for mesothelioma victims shows that the government has listened to impassioned arguments of victims, their families and their representatives.

“We now look forward to working closely with the government to see how the process can be improved for people who are dying from this horrific disease and whose life expectancy is very short.”

The Ministry of Justice did however state that they will be looking towards bringing mesothelioma claims in line with the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) over the coming months.

This has caused concern for APIL with Mr Tonks adding: “We argued from the outset that the cost implication of the changes would mean that some mesothelioma claims may never be brought to court at all. In those cases which do go ahead, sufferers may have to make deductions from their damages to pay their costs, which they can ill afford to do.

“We understand the government has conducted a review of this issue and we await justification for this decision.”

The way in which mesothelioma claims are handled has been a hot topic this week in house commons, with debate over the Mesothelioma Bill for those claimants who can’t trace their former employer’s insurance records being debated fiercely.

As it stands the Bill still states that those successful claimants under the new Bill, if and when it is passed, will only be awarded 75% of the standard compensation amount that a claimant who can trace their employer’s insurance records.

This is simply unfair and unjust, as sufferers of this terrible disease have such limited life expectancy’s and need the compensation more than anything to aid their treatment and care whilst ensuring that at the same time their families are looked after.

It is also displaying a large element of ignorance to a victims right to justice. This is not an illness that they could have prevented and is down to the negligence of their employers.

On Tuesday the MP for Wigan, Lisa Nandy hit the nail on the head when she tweeted: “In the chamber for the second reading of the Mesothelioma Bill, 75% payment is 75% justice.”

Tuesday saw the Bill read in the House of Commons for the second time and APIL amongst others have continued to campaign for further improvements to ensure more victims of mesothelioma can be compensated properly.