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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

More Good News for Asbestos Victims - for now...

I have written before about the horrors of asbestos exposure.

Workers in the UK, especially in the 60s and 70s were regularly and heavily exposed to this most lethal of substances. I have heard tales of pipe workers and laggers covered head to toe like snowmen. Others have talked of having asbestos ‘snowball’ fights during lunch breaks.

Many of these workers have gone on to suffer from terrible illnesses including lung cancer and especially mesothelioma which is almost always fatal and is only caused by asbestos exposure. The illnesses can take up to 40 years to develop. So many who worked with it, will become ill over the next few years.

The Government’s attacks on all compensation claimants have included those who will die or lose loved ones from mesothelioma. The whole point of the assault on claimants is to discourage so called spurious claims and the mythical compensation culture. This has been done by moves to force claimants to lose up to 25% of their damages to go towards legal costs no longer recoverable from the insurers.

But nobody on either side of that debate would dream of suggesting that mesothelioma claimants are not genuine victims. So they have had the strongest case for being an exception.

Exhaustive lobbying now seems to have at least a limited effect. Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly has now confirmed that the implementation of this change, scheduled for April 2013, will be delayed for further consideration. Shadow Justice Minister Sadique Khan said - "Someone suffering this horrible disease is not making up their cancer to make a quick buck. They cannot possibly be part of the compensation culture."

What is alarming is that Mr. Djanogly is still committed to the change in principle and is consulting with ‘insurers and other stakeholders’. Well it is clear what the insurers’ view will be. They want to pay as little as possible. I hope that ‘other stakeholders’ will include those representing victims.

These proposals will not save the taxpayer a penny. In fact the taxpayer will lose out. If victims are deterred from claiming then the treasury will lose the chance to recover disability benefits from the insurance companies. It will also mean that those who require ongoing care will need to rely on the NHS rather than have this paid by the wrongdoer via their insurance.

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