July 26, 2013

Industrial diseases specialist warns of pitfalls of new compensation scheme for asbestos cancer victims

Helen Childs, industrial diseases specialist in our Personal Injury team, has warned that many mesothelioma sufferers will face delays and receive less compensation under a new online scheme announced by the Ministry of Justice earlier this week.

Helen does not believe the new scheme will benefit victims of mesothelioma – an aggressive, asbestos-related cancer which develops many decades after exposure to asbestos.

Instead, she fears the scheme, which will allow sufferers to submit their compensation claims online to insurance companies, could mean further delays and lower value pay-outs.

"While I welcome any proposals to speed up access to justice for mesothelioma sufferers and their families, I am not convinced that any proposal that relies on the insurance industry accepting their responsibilities speedily will achieve that aim,” said Helen Childs, partner at Withy King. “At the moment I frequently experience denials and refusals to accept responsibility from insurance companies, and it is often only the prospect of court proceedings that forces them to deal with my clients’ claims. I am frequently able to settle a client's claim speedily, often within three-to-six months of first being consulted, and I will be surprised if the online scheme proposed by the Ministry of Justice will achieve quicker settlements than that.

“I have also helped many families achieve justice after other solicitors have given up the fight on their behalf. If other lawyers are not able to take on the insurers and succeed, what chance does a mesothelioma sufferer have? I am also worried that any individual who submits a claim direct and settles it without the advice of a specialist lawyer risks being under compensated, and potentially short-changed by tens of thousands of pounds. It is not realistic to expect seriously-ill individuals or their families to know what compensation they are entitled to, and this could mean that families are left with insufficient funds to meet their needs, such as on-going care costs or loss of earnings following the death of a loved one. It is really important that anyone affected by mesothelioma or other asbestos diseases obtains specialist legal advice to ensure they get justice."

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