News that the government has rejected plans by insurers to change the way Mesothelioma claims are handled is welcome news indeed, but the fight to achieve justice for victims is far from over.
Following consultation with victims’ groups, the plans – which were proposed by the very insurers who have to pay out when a victim’s claim is successful, and which we believe would have ultimately led to smaller awards – were rejected. Instead, the government has said it will work with victims and insurers to find a better way to get claims settled quickly and fairly. However some changes, which look likely to reduce access to justice, have already been approved.
The Association of British Insurers recommended the new system, called the Mesothelioma Pre Action Protocol, to speed up the claims process and control out-of-court settlements. It would have required victims of mesothelioma – an aggressive and terminal illness contracted through exposure to asbestos, mainly at work – to go through a number of onerous and time-consuming steps before they could initiate court proceedings.
But because Mesothelioma is such a fast-acting disease, and kills many of its victims within months of the onset of symptoms, many potential claimants would simply have run out of time to bring their case. The proposed rules would also have prevented many claimants from receiving an interim payment part-way through proceedings, which is often desperately needed to pay for care or equipment such as a wheelchair, as the victim’s health deteriorates.
Whilst there is relief that these proposals have been rejected, unfortunately it’s not all good news. The government has also agreed to lift the rule that exempts Mesothelioma claimants from having to pay certain costs as part of their case. This will mean that they will have to pay them out of their own pockets, leaving them worse off through no fault of their own.
In short, the system as it stands is still far from adequate. In most cases, the victim was exposed to asbestos decades before becoming ill, often by more than one employer. It can be difficult for anyone to remember their exact employment history from fifty years ago, let alone when that person is terminally ill and distressed. Further complications arise when the employing company no longer exists, and the insurer cannot be traced. In such cases, unfortunately, the odds are heavily stacked against victims. It is therefore vital that they choose a solicitor that has the experience and expertise to help them secure the best possible outcome for their case.
Beecham Peacock Solicitors in Newcastle has been helping victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases for many years. For more information call us on 0191 2323048 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.