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Too little too late?

On 25th July 2012 the Government announced plans to set up a new scheme: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2012/jul-2012/dwp085-12.shtml to assist victims of mesothelioma who are unable to pursue a claim for compensation.

The scheme is intended to assist those who cannot trace an employer’s liability insurer in cases where the employer has ceased trading.

The Government estimates that over 300 mesothelioma sufferers per year currently lose out on compensation because there is nobody in a position to meet the claim for damages.

The new scheme is to be funded by the insurance industry. All employers’ liability insurers will be required by law to participate in the scheme.

Legislation will need to be passed before the scheme can come into force.

Whilst the news of additional support to mesothelioma victims is welcome, Sintons LLP share the concerns of those who campaign on behalf of asbestos victims that the scheme does not go far enough.

The scheme is limited to mesothelioma claims only. Those who suffer from other asbestos diseases, such as pleural thickening, asbestosis and asbestos related lung cancer, experience the same difficulties in pursuing claims through lack of knowledge of the identity of their former employer’s insurers. The scheme could and should have been extended to cover other categories of asbestos related illness.

Furthermore, whilst precise details are awaited, the scheme will only compensate up to a level above the present benefits position but falling short of the full sum that would be awarded in a claim for damages through the civil Courts.

Full compensation therefore will not be available to mesothelioma sufferers who proceed with their claim under the terms of the scheme.

Finally, the Government have adopted an arbitrary qualifying date of 25th July 2012. An individual diagnosed with mesothelioma on the 24th July 2012 will not be eligible under the scheme.

At this stage, it is not known how long it will take the Government to introduce legislation. It may be some time yet before mesothelioma victims will be entitled to compensation under the terms of the scheme.