A new support scheme has been launched by the UK Government to help newly diagnosed victims of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, such as the lungs, and is almost always the result of exposure to asbestos. It is always fatal, and sufferers can only expect to live around eight or nine months on average after diagnosis.
Claiming compensation for mesothelioma has often been a problem for sufferers because typically symptoms do not appear until 40 or 50 years after the exposure to asbestos has taken place. As a result, by the time a sufferer realises he or she has the condition, their employer may no longer be around to make a claim against.
The new scheme is designed to help people who have developed diffuse mesothelioma as a result of negligent exposure to asbestos at work but cannot trace a liable employer or employers’ liability insurer to make a compensation claim against.
Under the scheme, which will be funded by insurance firms, victims will receive a greater payment than they are currently able to receive under existing statutory schemes. The average payment for eligible claimants is expected to be around £115,000 before benefit recovery. If a sufferer has died then the money can be paid to their dependants.
The scheme, which is due to start in 2014, will apply to people diagnosed with mesothelioma from 25th July 2012. The Government estimates that around 900 people will be eligible for the payment in 2014, and a further 300 will be eligible annually until 2024.
“This scheme represents a major breakthrough for the many victims of this terrible disease – who have been failed by successive Governments and the insurance industry for decades,” said Work and Pensions Minister Mike Penning. “It will end an injustice that has left many tragic victims and their families high and dry.”
“The aggressive and terminal nature of this disease, coupled by the fact we’re approaching a peak in cases in the coming years, makes it imperative that we get this legislation in place as soon as possible,” he added.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has welcomed the proposals.
“We now look forward to working closely with the Government to see how the process can be improved for people who are dying from this horrific disease and whose life expectancy is very short,” said Karl Tonks of APIL.
The dangers of working with asbestos are well known, but despite this employers and organisations continue to put the health of their workers and the general public at risk by failing to comply with regulations in place to ensure the safe handling of asbestos.
In October this year, a council and a decorating firm appeared in court after workers were exposed to potentially deadly asbestos fibres.
The firm had been sent by the council to remove asbestos insulation board from a community centre. This was a job that should have been carried out under controlled conditions by a licensed contractor, however in this case the asbestos was spread around the site by the decorating firm’s staff.
The Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident and found that the council had undertaken a survey detailing the presence of asbestos but had failed to pass information on to the decorating firm. The firm had also failed to carry out its own assessment of the insulation boards to check whether asbestos was present.
In another recent case, a glass firm was fined when two subcontractors, who had been told the building was free from asbestos, unknowingly drilled through an asbestos insulation panel while installing fire sensors.
They used a domestic vacuum cleaner to remove the dust, which was then used in other parts of the building and caused asbestos fibres to be spread. When the asbestos was discovered, the company then failed to follow the recommendations of its own health and safety advisers to cordon off the area and arrange for a specialist clean up.
As a result, 180 workers and 16 visitors were potentially put at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.
For specialist personal injury claims advice in Scotland, including advice on making a claim for an asbestos-related condition, contact us today: click here to make an online enquiry or call us on 0800 027 1480.