I am writing this article in relation to asbestos compensation, as over the last few weeks there has been a tendency in the press namely The Daily Mail and Daily Express to vilify victims of mesothelioma as ambulance chasers and suggest those willing to forgo significant compensation on behalf of deceased family members are heroes or heroines.

I refer to the recent Daily Mail Article by Christopher Booker arguing that the concern of asbestos in schools was, “ The Great Asbestos Hysteria: How one man claims the BBC, profiteering firms and politicians have exaggerated the dangers”. The basis of his argument was the dangers of asbestos has been blown out of all proportion and many of the building materials containing white asbestos are not as dangerous as made out. Although crysotile (white) asbestos is slightly less dangerous than the amphibole types it is completely incorrect to claim that there could ever be a safe level of asbestos exposure as it takes just one asbestos fibre to cause mesothelioma.

Interestingly many of the insurance companies who have a vested interest in agreeing Mr Booker’s arguments simply cannot agree. One insurer recently undertook research that showed the frequency of mesothelioma in the population had yet to peak and “mesothelioma claims present a real risk to many companies.” Statisticians have estimated that 91,000 people will have been killed by mesothelioma by 2050, 67% of these will pass away after 2007. The annual death rate from mesothelioma has continued to increase year on year and there has been a 14-fold increase in deaths in 40 years according to the introduction of the mesothelioma register in 1967.

The fact that asbestos kills and is continuing to kill is not hysteria but truth. To suggest this is all contrived to make money is disingenuous and an affront to those who have died or are dying because of exposure to asbestos.

In another article from Ann Widdecombe in the Daily Express “Widow turns down £1million payout for husbands asbestos death” the widow of an asbestos victims was quoted as saying “I don’t approve of those people who go around chasing ambulances to find someone to sue”. Whilst I am sure the victim’s wife, whose husband was an affluent Doctor, has her own choices to make many asbestos victims simply need the money to purchase items to make their death more comfortable such as wheel chairs and adjustable beds. Ann Widdecombe suggested that these claims fuel ‘compensation culture’ and compared it to

  • The cancellation of egg and spoon races?
  • Forcing children to wear goggles when playing conkers?
  • Pricing harmless village fetes out of insurance premiums?

It beggars belief she could make such comparisons. She finally commented
“ If Mesothelioma UK ever rattles a collection box under my nose, it will get short shrift”. This is a charitable trust that exists to raise funds and provide financial support to the National Macmillan Mesothelioma Resource Centre. To oppose a charity that is attempting to improve the lives of mesothelioma victims and to raise money to look at treatments is offensive in the extreme.

I am disgusted that any compassionate human being would put the price of insurance premiums above the cost of human lives. Ann Widdicombe should sit at the bedside of a victim who is slowly drowning from the fluid in their own lungs and who knows there is no cure and tell him or her they don’t deserve compensation.

One of my firm’s clients Mr M who has recently been diagnosed is 49 years old and has 5 children. Prior to coming to see us he was living on the top flat of rented accommodation. His wife was forced to work long hours to keep the family going. Sadly Mr M is not in a financial position to say his morals take precedence when he has a family to support.

It is all too easy to make this into a class issue but asbestos illness knows no class. When I firsts started dealing with asbestos cases most of the victims where working class, shipbuilders, electricians, power station workers but now I am seeing teachers, doctors, dentists, architects and civil engineers who equally deserve compensation as a recognition of their injuries.

Many people claim for a multitude of reasons, justice, to leave a financial legacy for their family, to pay for nursing care, even peace of mind or simply to know that someone, somewhere has been held accountable for the avoidable tragedy of their illness. To suggest that people should not claim because it affects insurance premiums is at best naïve and at worse delusional.

Finally we always hear about how solicitors are fuelling this asbestos litigation. Following a recent survey from Marsh Insurers, it was found that three large nationwide firms have the monopoly on 60% of all mesothelioma claims. Two of the firms have very close links to Trade Unions who campaign on behalf of the workers affected. I have not heard of anyone blaming Trade Unions for litigation

Whilst I cannot comment on their practice, here at WE Solicitors we do not deduct monies from compensation. We do not buy claims or enter in auctions for cases of dying victims. Much of the work we do is outside the claim itself e.g. the probate, the Will, the attendance at the Coroner’s Court with the family is done for free. We are not fat cat lawyers and place the interests of our client’s at the centre of everything we do.

If you have any questions or feedback do not hesitate to contact me, Steven Evans, Managing Partner at WE Solicitors LLP on Freephone 0800 294 3065.