Making a mesothelioma claim is to be made faster, according to new government measures just announced by the Ministry of Justice. In addition, victims of asbestos exposure and their families are to be exempt from having to pay 25 per cent towards legal costs following a successful claim.

Speeding up the legal process of securing mesothelioma compensation for victims of the fatal cancer who may only have a few months to live has been central to ensuring they receive a better quality of life in the remaining time and their spouse is left financially secure.

When the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) came into force in July 2014 as a “fund of last resort” to around 3,500 mesothelioma sufferers who every year are unable to trace their original employer or insurer, there was an issue over payment of legal costs.

Adverse impact

Under the ‘no-win, no fee’ arrangement, the ‘success fee’ could be recovered from the defendant, i.e. legal expenses from an insurance policy previously taken out could be recovered if a claim for an illness or injury was successful. Following a government enquiry into reforming the way injury compensation is to be paid it was announced that a Legal Aid Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Act 2013 (LASPOA) would be introduced, forcing the claimant to pay the success fee when they win their case.

It had been consistently argued by asbestosis lawyers that mesothelioma claim victims should maintain their original exemption on the grounds of the adverse impact a change in the law would have upon themselves and their families. It was further disputed that not enough time was given to recognising that mesothelioma cases were of a different category to standard injury claims.

Further review at a later date

Mesothelioma victims and their anxious families will be relieved to hear that the Justice ministry said it would “not be making any changes to the law around no-win no-fee deals involving mesothelioma cases at this time.” However, their financial concerns may yet return as a further review of the “likely effects of the no-win no-fee reforms on mesothelioma claims” is to be carried out at a later date.

Measures to “streamline” mesothelioma claims, which are to be brought into force at the earliest opportunity include:

  • Speeding up of the process to obtain hospital medical records, and
  • Allowing HM Revenue and Customs to release the work records of deceased victims to their dependants without permission from the courts.

Limitations of eligibility

In the five months since DMPS was introduced, compensation totalling £13 million has been paid out to more than 230 mesothelioma victims and their families. Despite of the Department for Work and Pensions calling on those men and women who are eligible to come forward, there continues to be disappointment and anger expressed over the limitations of eligibility.

The scheme only allows victims who were diagnosed with mesothelioma after 25th July 2012 and excludes those who are diagnosed with other types of asbestosis diseases. Ex-serving members of the armed forces who were exposed before 1987 are also exempt because up until this time, the Crown was granted “immunity” from prosecution.

The need to ensure mesothelioma victims and their families can see the earliest possible resolution to their claims must be maintained and eligibility to all who suffer from debilitating asbestos diseases.

Mesothelioma fatalities have been steadily rising in the UK with a four-fold increase just in the last thirty years (Office of National Statistics) and around 4,700 asbestos disease related deaths are recorded annually (Health and Safety Executive).