During July of this year, the Ministry of Justice announced proposals to introduce a new “out of court” mesothelioma compensation scheme for sufferers and their families.
The new scheme has been modelled on the case management system already in place to deal with Road Traffic Accident claims which is known as the “RTA portal” and will be funded by the insurance industry.
The theory behind its introduction is that the new scheme will assist mesothelioma Claimants and their families in recovering compensation even in circumstances where insurance cannot be traced for sufferers’ non-trading, polluting employers who exposed them to harmful amounts of asbestos dust during the course of their employment.
Ministry of Justice minister Helen Grant said: “The improved out-of-court process will help to ensure Claimants can access compensation they are due as quickly as possible”.
Any new system which is introduced which promotes faster adequate settlements should be welcomed but it should be noted that a fast-track court system is already in place for mesothelioma claims which works very well for Claimants and their families. The new scheme’s introduction can be viewed initially with a degree of caution.
An old governmental scheme introduced to compensate mesothelioma sufferers and their families under the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Act of 1979 can only be said to have provided inadequate compensation in comparison to sums that could be recovered if formal legal claims were pursued successfully against employers or their insurers. Historically this has been seen as very much a fall-back provision for Claimants and their families.
It is hoped that the new portal scheme will result in sufferers receiving more adequate awards of compensation and not figures representing a percentage of what could be recovered as a result of pursuing a formal legal claim against a traced employing company or their insurers.
One argument made by the employers’ insurers is that funding mesothelioma claims in this way will reduce their costs in having to meet Claimant solicitors’ legal fees, therefore allowing them to place more funds into the new portal scheme.
It remains to be seen whether such anticipated savings will be passed on to mesothelioma sufferers and their families as the level of awards to be made under the scheme have yet to be made clear under the consultation process which is currently on-going.
There are fears on the Claimant solicitors’ side that serious mesothelioma cases should not be treated in the same way as a Road Traffic Accident claims. More research and expert legal input is required to not only identify parties to sue but also to ensure that sufferers and families are provided with the highest quality legal advice with a view to maximising the value of each claim. Introducing a fixed portal compensation scheme could potentially restrict a mesothelioma sufferer’s arguments on the value of their claim leaving them out of pocket by as much as 30%.