Victim support groups have criticised the government´s proposals to provide mesothelioma compensation settlements to former employees who contracted an asbestos-related disease in the workplace and who are unable to trace their former employer to claim compensation.
Details of the Mesothelioma Bill were announced last week in the Queen´s Speech and were widely welcomed by government ministers who said that the plans address the scenario in which former employees, who were negligently exposed to asbestos in the workplace, are unable to trace an employer or insurer against whom to claim compensation.
The proposed legislation would establish a £300 million fund – paid for by a levy on insurance companies currently providing employer´s liability insurance – that would provide compensation for mesothelioma sufferers who would otherwise not receive anything. Mesothelioma compensation settlements would be paid out to those who qualified for the scheme at a rate of 70 percent of average industry settlements.
However, while government ministers and the Association of British Insurers welcomed the bill, campaigners were saying that it did not go far enough and highlighted the proposals major failings –
- The mesothelioma compensation settlements will only be paid to those diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer from 25th July 2012
- The 70 percent ceiling on ‘average’ settlements prevents each claim for mesothelioma compensation from being settled on its own merits
- Those suffering from other asbestos-related illnesses – such as asbestosis and pleural thickening will be excluded from the proposed government legislation
Chairman of the Asbestos Victims Support Group – Tony Whitston – said: “What appears to be a great deal brokered by government, and costing the insurance industry a small fortune, is in reality something entirely different. This scheme is not what we expected. It was presented as a fait accompli to asbestos victims and saves the insurance industry a small fortune at huge cost to asbestos victims.”
The British Lung Foundation highlighted that “a shamefully small amount” was spent on research into mesothelioma cancer – only £400,000 in 2011, compared with £11.5 million spent on lung cancer – and said it would also seek to amend the proposed legislation for mesothelioma compensation settlements to ensure a “long-term, sustainable research fund” is set up to find a cure for mesothelioma.