Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme

Introduction of new Government Scheme brings fresh hope for many Asbestos Disease suffers in our region.

Many people in our region will have come into contact with asbestos at some point in their working life. That is particularly the case for those in heavy industry such as  laggers, shipbuilders, joiners and fitters but also in less obvious jobs  those such as teachers and hospital workers, where the buildings they worked in contained asbestos.

Although many may never go on to develop asbestos related disease a significant number will. Some may develop mesothelioma, an asbestos related malignant tumour, which can develop more than fifty years after exposure to asbestos.

The vast majority of  people working with asbestos were not aware of the harm that it could do to them  (and will not have heard of asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma). Their employers however, were aware of the risks of working with asbestos, but failed to take adequate steps to protect their workforce.

At present, many mesothelioma victims are able to bring a claim against their former employer for failing in their duty of care to their workforce. If the claim is successful the money that they will receive in compensation can be put towards private care and medical expenses to provide the best possible quality of life. Also, as mesothelioma is an incurable cancer, many victims are keen to make sure their loved ones are provided for after they pass away.

One of the problems in pursuing these cases has been the difficulty in tracing insurers. This meant that for more than 20 years good claims failed because there was no insurer to pay out and the employer had gone out of business. Anthony McCarthy, Director and Asbestos Litigation Specialist at Macks Solicitors said” I have dealt with numerous cases where victims of mesothelioma have lost out because insurers could not be traced. It was unfair that many lost out in this insurance lottery.”

Finally, over 4 years after it was first proposed by the last Labour government, this unfairness has been at least partially addressed.

A recent Act of Parliament, the Mesothelioma Act 2014,  provides for regulations to establish the Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme. This scheme will enable mesothelioma sufferers diagnosed on or after 25th July 2012 and who have been unable to trace either their employer, who exposed them to asbestos, or their employers liability insurers, to seek compensation to the value of 75% of the average court award for mesothelioma claims. Applications to the scheme may be made from April 2014. Payments under the scheme will be funded by a 3% levy on active employers’ liability insurers.

Although welcoming the setting up of the Scheme, Anthony McCarthy expressed some concerns:

“ The scheme will benefit many in our region but the arbitrary cut off date of 25 July 2012 will unfairly penalise those diagnosed before then.”

He added “ It is also wrong that victims will not recover 100% of the value of their claim. Mesothelioma victims deserve to be fully compensated. Insurers should not get away with underpaying claims and benefitting from the fact they have lost or destroyed policies for which they received premiums.”

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