A Tyneside law firm has urged the Government not to agree a "second rate solution" for asbestos victims.
The warning from experts at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office comes as the Mesothelioma Bill goes through a second reading in the House of Commons today.
Lawyers at the firm, who have represented thousands of asbestos victims, say that around 5,000 people develop an asbestos-related cancer each year including mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer.
The Government’s proposed Mesothelioma Bill outlines a new scheme to provide payments to those who cannot trace their former employer’s insurer but lawyers today expressed their concerns that thousands of sufferers will be denied full justice due to the technicalities of the scheme.
They are disappointed that the settlements under the scheme are to be limited to victims of mesothelioma only and are intended to be 25% lower than the current average compensation for people suffering from the asbestos-related cancer. Irwin Mitchell research suggests that mesothelioma victims may miss out on around £43,000 on average.
The scheme will only apply to those diagnosed after July 25, 2012 which means yet more sufferers will be unable to access the justice they deserve. Lawyers believe the scheme should help all those diagnosed after February 2010 which is when consultations regarding the scheme began.
There are concerns that the scheme will not provide for payment of compensation for estates of victims who die without leaving dependants and had not already made a claim at the time of their death.
Roger Maddocks, a partner in the Asbestos-Related Disease team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Mesothelioma cases by their very nature are complex, often going back 40-50 years and involving very detailed investigations.
“Mesothelioma victims have faced many legal challenges in recent years. This is yet another one. What they really deserve is full and fair financial security for their families – not to be fed into an automated process which will short change innocent victims, which is what is certain to happen if the Government continues to follow this agenda.”
Chris Knighton, 65, has dedicated her life to charity work since her husband Mick died from the asbestos-related cancer in 2001.
The Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, based in Wallsend, North Tyneside, has raised more than £1m for research and supported hundreds of people.
Speaking of the bill she said: “It is wonderful and a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough.”