The formal start of the parliamentary year is marked by the State Opening of Parliament. During this the Queen’s Speech sets out the Government’s agenda, proposed policies and legislation for the coming session.
This year, 20 proposed bills were announced, in addition to plans to reform immigration, high speed travel and a flat rate pension, there was a promise for a mesothelioma bill.
A new scheme is proposed, expected to be launched from July 2014, allowing for mesothelioma sufferers diagnosed after 25th July 2012 to claim compensation within five months, where no employer or insurer can be traced.
Due to the latency period of asbestos-related conditions which can take between 10 and 50 years to come to light, many previous employers are no longer in business.
Each year more than 300 mesothelioma sufferers are unable to pursue civil claims for their condition as insurance cannot be traced to cover the compensation, even though employers’ liability insurance was compulsory after 1972.
There is currently a Government scheme in place which allows for those suffering with mesothelioma, pneumoconiosis, pleural thickening, byssinosis or primary carcinoma of the lung when accompanied by asbestosis or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening to make a claim for compensation where a civil claim cannot be pursued due to an untraced employer or insurer.
The current scheme, Pneumoconiosis Etc. (Worker’s Compensation) Act 1979 (PWCA) is paid for by the Government and the payouts to sufferers are much less than they would receive if insurance could be traced. The proposed new scheme is to be paid for a by a levy on all employers’ liability insurers.
It is expected that the new scheme will help more than 300 sufferers a year and will cost the insurance industry £300m over the next ten years.
The legislation follows on from proposals by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to set up such a scheme. Otto Thoresen, ABI Director General, responded to the Queen’s Speech to say:
“Mesothelioma is a devastating disease which has a terrible impact on sufferers and their families. The insurance industry wants to do all it can to help sufferers and has worked with the Government on this package of measures that will deliver help to claimants much faster, including to those who would otherwise go uncompensated.”
Whilst the announcement of financial assistance for asbestos disease sufferers in a speedy manner has been welcomed by some, many asbestos victims have said the proposed payouts are insulting.
Campaigners do not feel the scheme does enough. There is a proposed cap on compensation of 70% on what they would have received in a civil claim. The scheme will not look at cases on an individual basis but will instead have a flat fee banded by age.
Many feel that the cut off date of 25th July 2012 is unnecessary meaning there will be a large number of victims will be discriminated against. The Department of Work and Pensions said that they “urgently announced the scheme in July last year to ensure as many people as possible will be covered”. If it is the case that they want to help as many people as possible, campaigners question why there is a cut off date.
It is also felt that when developing the scheme insurance companies were favoured, DWP minister, Lord Freud met with insurers to discuss asbestos 14 times between October 2010 and September 2012, meeting with asbestos victim groups over the same period just twice, although the insurance companies deny lobbying for reduced compensation.
Chairman of the Asbestos Victims Support Group, Tony Whiston said:
“For decades, insurers systematically destroyed or simply lost policies then, years later, refused compensation because the policies could not be traced, saving hundreds of millions. Forced to face their failure, they’ve negotiated the cheapest deal possible.”
It is due to the insurance industry’s failure to maintain proper records that so many sufferers are unable to claim the compensation they deserve. They worked hard for their families many years ago and have now been struck by an insidious disease, through no fault of their own.
Whatsmyasbestosclaimworth is happy to assist with any civil claims, but also help in completing benefit application forms. This will continue after the introduction of the new legislation and you should not hesitate to contact us.