The Ministry of Justice have announced that they intend to speed up the process to help victims of mesothelioma achieve some form of compensation.
Helen Grant, Justice Minister announced:
“The Government considers that it is imperative that these claims are settled quickly and that early payment of compensation is made so as to ease the sufferings of victims of this dreadful disease and give some assurance that their dependants will be financially secure when they are no longer around. However this cannot be achieved without a speedy pre-litigation process which is why the Government has decided to consult on how best to reduce delays in these cases.”
Any attempt to speed up the claims process for the victims will be welcomed but I fear that this is simply another attempt by the Government to undermine the victims’ opportunity to claim damages and compensation.
From experience the general delay in dealing with mesothlioma claims is the defendant insurance industry. Many of the mesothelioma victims we help are put through lengthy periods of doubt, uncertainty and frustration whilst defendants run spurious arguments. We only have to look at the trigger litigation to see how insurers seek to prolong matters unnecessarily.
We have recently represented a client who cut asbestos boarding for fire doors as part of his job for nearly 20 years for a national organisation The victim sadly passed away before he was able to enjoy the benefits of his compensation because the defendants ran an argument suggesting the quantities of dust he was exposed to were not against the criminal law at the time. The case settled weeks before trial but the family had to wait nearly 12 months.
There is already a fast track process for these cases which works well. On the whole the firms who specialise in this type of work tend to work closely and sensibly to bring the case to a successful conclusion. There are always exceptions.
What has to be at the forefront of everyone’s consideration is the victim and their family and not the insurers balance sheet. I suspect what will be at the forefront of the Ministry of Justice’s mind is the lobbying from the insurance industry to reduce the fees of solicitors who represent these victims. Hopefully the MOJ will come to understand these cases are not road traffic accidents and cannot be neatly placed in a portal system to be dealt with by unqualified claims handlers. They are by there nature extremely complex and technical. With every case very different they cannot be run along the lines of a formula and require careful thought and communication between the parties.
The MOJ would be wiser taking time to investigate the current fast track system which is grossly under resourced despite the sterling efforts from the designated Judges who are committed to seeing the system dispense justice where necessary. They could also look at punitive costs and damages sanctions against defendants who perpetually delay litigation in the hope a victim may pass away during the lifetime of the case and thereby reduce the damages they have to pay out.
Please follow the link below to read the written ministerial statement in relation to the ‘Reforms for Mesothelioma Claims’ issued by The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mrs Helen Grant) dated 18th December 2012.