In July this year, the new compensation scheme recently passed by parliament under the Mesothelioma Bill will start to be implemented. A fund of £355 million is to be provided in the first ten years, which aims to deliver a faster financial settlement to around 3,500 mesothelioma victims of asbestos exposure who have been unable to trace their employer / insurers. The intention is for sufferers who have been unable to obtain justice for their original exposure to asbestos can aim to secure financial provision in the remaining time left.

However, the terms of the Bill restricts eligibility to those making a mesothelioma claim only and excludes those suffering with asbestosis or other asbestos-related conditions. In addition, application is strictly confined to individuals diagnosed with the fatal, incurable cancer after 25 July 2012, and final payouts are to be limited to 75 per cent of the average compensation level. As a result, the Mesothelioma Bill has been roundly criticised for falling short of expectation due to the influence of the insurance industry.

Calculations based on average compensation payments

The Department of Work and Pensions have based their calculations on the average civil compensation payments for occupational mesothelioma, which also takes into account the administration costs of implementing the scheme.

While some of the source data was obtained from a 2008 survey of insurance claims, a new, more up-to-date study was carried out in 2013 with the Ministry of Justice looking more closely at specific data, such as average compensation levels by age and the average claimant legal costs if litigation was involved. Further information was obtained on whether the claimant was alive or deceased on the date when damages were awarded.

Nearly 2,100 cases where total compensation was paid were finally included in the study from the selected 3,500 occupational mesothelioma claims, or just over 80 per cent of those which were reported in the private sector between 2007 and 2012.

The claims survey found, not unexpectedly, that nearly 95 per cent of mesothelioma victims were male and over 65 years of age. Female mesothelioma victims accounted for just over 5 per cent, of which, only 23 per cent were aged under 65 years and 7 per cent over 85 years.

Level of compensation awarded reduced with increasing age

While the average claimant age was 71 years, the level of compensation awarded was generally reduced with increasing age by an average of £3,680 for each additional year. During the five year period of the survey, the average compensation awarded was between £137,000 to £153,500 with the average award at around £136,800.

After 2008, the amounts awarded tended to be higher, reaching an additional average £14,000 if the claimant was still alive at the time of settlement. Legal costs were also found to have risen as case length times increased, were also higher if court proceedings were issued and if the claimant was deceased at the time when the award was issued.

The Health and Safety Executive report that at least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma continue to be diagnosed annually in the UK, and fatalities reached 2,347 in 2010, the latest available figures. The effectiveness of the new scheme is still to be determined and whether the many victims and their families who apply will see rightful justice and sufficient financial redress swiftly resolved.