Mesothelioma Bill – Update

by David T on July 24, 2013

Readers may recollect that over the last few months there has been some debate about the Mesothelioma Bill.

The Bill which was outlined in the Queen’s speech on May 5th is designed to establish a payment scheme for people with mesothelioma where employer’s or employer’s liability insurance cannot be traced.

The Bill follows a consultation paper introduced in 2010 by the then Labour Government which set out options for an insurance fund of last resort to pay compensation where insurance for victims of Mesothelioma could not be traced.

The Scheme will only apply to people diagnosed with mesothelioma from 25th July 2012, and will not apply to other asbestos related conditions, which means that those suffering from other forms of asbestos related diseases such as asbestos related lung cancer and asbestosis will be excluded.

In addition the Scheme will only pay victims “average” compensation and then slashes the average compensation payment by 30%.

Support of this type for mesothelioma victims is long overdue, but it is not right that those who suffer from other asbestos related conditions should get nothing, nor that average payments should be slashed.

The Health & Safety Executive estimates that there are up to 2,000 victims of Mesothelioma per year and it is anticipated that this figure may rise.  The Government estimates that more than 300 mesothelioma sufferers per year currently lose out on compensation because they are unable to trace a liable employer or employer’s liability insurer.

Whilst the Scheme has generally been dressed up as a generous gesture by insurance lobbyists, it is clear from consideration of the Scheme that many thousands who have paid with their lives and will continue to pay with their lives as a result of their former employer’s negligence, will fail to receive the full compensation that they deserve.

The Insurance Industry which failed to maintain its own records and which destroyed its own paperwork, has succeeded in reducing payments to approximately 70% of the standard compensation, and has also drawn an imaginary line in the sand such that only those diagnosed after 25th July 2012 can claim.  Not surprisingly, given the injustices contained within the Bill and the Scheme, there has been a campaign to persuade law makers including the House of Lords, to make amendments to the Bill before it passes back to the House of Commons for final resolution.

The Bill is currently at report stage in the House of Lords and will go on to a third stage reading in the House, and then back to the House of Commons.

As a result of strenuous lobbying by the victims of mesothelioma amendments to the draft Bill were proposed.  The most significant of which were amendments that any compensation under the Scheme should be at 100% of the average damages, and to make the Scheme applicable to victims of mesothelioma diagnosed after 10th February 2010.

Sadly these amendments which would have given equality to all victims in respect of damages, and which would have replaced a short arbitrary cut off with a slightly longer one, were voted down in the House Grand Committee.

It is strongly to be hoped that the amendments to the draft Bill proposed by some members of the House of Lords re-surface and are supported, and go onto become law and enable many more of those victims and their families suffering from and who have suffered from, mesothelioma to receive the compensation that they deserve.

Finally this is not a no-fault scheme and irrespective of its final form, the Scheme will still require proof that the mesothelioma sufferer was negligently exposed to asbestos before any payments will be made. There will be plenty of work to do, even with the Scheme, to ensure that victims are compensated at whatever level.

The National Asbestos Helpline is an organisation that can help mesothelioma sufferers make a civil claim for compensation. For more information on the National Asbestos Helpline call freephone 0800 043 6635.

 


Mesothelioma is a tumour of the mesothelium, the thin membrane that lines the chest (pleural), abdomen (peritoneal) and surrounds the organs in those areas.  Mesothelioma is invariably caused by exposure to asbestos and the development of the disease usually occurs between 20 to 50 years post exposure, although it can occur as little as 10 years post exposure.

Mesothelioma is invariably fatal and has been known to affect people from all walks of life, including teachers, shipbuilders, cleaners, electricians, carpenters, builders, demolition operatives, coach builders, plumbers, boiler makers and even persons who have had no recorded or traceable exposure to asbestos, but who may have come into contact with asbestos as a result of a family member becoming contaminated with asbestos, and bringing it into the home environment.

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