Does The Mesothelioma Bill Go Far Enough?
29th November 2013
Consultations into the Mesothelioma Bill concluded recently and the second reading of the bill is scheduled to occur on December 2nd, with Royal Assent predicted for July 2014. The aim of the bill is to make it easier for people with mesothelioma to receive personal injury compensation before they die. It will see a compulsory payment scheme established, so people with the condition and who cannot find the employer responsible for their illness can still receive the damages they deserve.
Issues With The Mesothelioma Bill
However, there are concerns that the bill does not go far enough – for instance, only those diagnosed with mesothelioma after July 25th 2012 will be eligible to receive compensation through the scheme, leaving potentially countless sufferers without compensation. This arbitrary date is unfair. Mesothelioma has a very poor prognosis, with life expectancy following diagnosis ranging from eight to fourteen months, and with the five-year survival rate only reaching around 10%. Is a cut-off date even necessary? Why penalise people whose mesothelioma diagnosis came a little too early?
Furthermore, people who use the scheme because they cannot locate their old employer or their insurance records will have their personal injury claim reduced by 25%. We at Clearwater Solicitors do not believe that these victims should be penalised at all; however we endorse the Association of Personal Injury Solicitor’s (APIL) view that if deductions are necessary, they should be no more than 10%, as is seen by claimants to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Mesothelioma is also just one of several serious diseases that people who are exposed to asbestos can develop. The Mesothelioma Bill contains no provisions for people who have developed asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis or pleural plaques. APIL said this omission was “offensive” to people with these other conditions.
APIL is also concerned that the scheme will be run by a body controlled by the insurance industry, with administrators answerable to the Secretary of State. This creates a potential conflict of interest, and an independent body should be set up to review the scheme and to ensure it operates in a fair and proper manner, providing personal injury compensation to those it should. The insurance industry needs independent oversight if it is to control the scheme – for instance, the current wording of the Mesothelioma Bill gives administers the right to decide the conditions of the scheme and the compensation received by each applicant. Insurers would naturally want the cost of the Mesothelioma Bill to be as low as possible.
The Ministry of Justice is to publish its reactions to the public consultation before the end of 2013, and our personal injury solicitors will closely analyse its responses to see how it has handled these issues.
While our personal injury solicitors congratulate the government for introducing this bill and improving access to compensation for people with conditions, we hope that some of these problems can be ironed out before the Mesothelioma Bill becomes law.