A study on the average payments made in civil cases of mesothelioma compensation, previously produced by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), reveals that the payment awarded was generally reduced with increasing age by an average of £3,700 for each additional year, and could be more than £8,000 higher if court proceedings had been issued.

How a court calculates an award in each individual case is determined by a number of factors, including current legal guidelines, reference to previous cases, and the deliberations of the judge. An interim lump sum payment can also be made when a defendant admits liability, which is considered to be a “reasonable proportion” of the damages expected in the eventual claim settlement.

The DWP study, which was carried out by the National Institute of Economic Research, surveyed more than 2,300 mesothelioma claims settled between 2007 and 2012.

During the five year period of the survey, it was found that that the average age of a claimant was 71 years, and the average compensation awarded was between £137,000 to £153,500 with the average award at around £136,800.

While payment levels increased on average by £17,900 between 2007 and 2012, it was also found that the award could be £8,300 higher if court proceedings had been issued or £10,900 higher if the claimant was alive at the time of the settlement. Around six in ten (59 per cent) of claimants were known to be deceased at the time of the award.

Lowest awards given to those claimants aged 85 and over

It is a well-documented characteristic of mesothelioma that the cancer usually develops between 15 to 50 years or more after the initial period of exposure to asbestos – in many cases, when the victim was at the start of their working life. The average age of the victim when a confirmed diagnosis is made was usually above the age of 75 but in recent years, there have been an increasing number of cases where the victim was aged in their 60s or 50s.

The survey also indicates that the age of the victim when a claim was registered was also a major factor. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of cases were aged under 65, dropping to 19 per cent of cases aged 75 -79 and by more than a half to 12 per cent of 80 – 84 year olds. Just 7 per cent were aged over 85 years.

It’s not unexpected to find that that the size of the award was seen to generally fall with advancing age. The highest awards were typically for those claimants aged under 65, while the lowest awards given to those claimants aged 85 and over, as follows:

Age band    Average award

Under 65      £194,466
65-69            £160,859
70-74            £135,143
75-79            £129,223
80-84           £110,099
85 +              £ 95,188

Claim process may slow and not be resolved in time

Victims and their families obviously seek the settlement of a mesothelioma claim as quickly as possible. In far too many cases, a victim aged in their 70s or 80s may have between 2 and 6 months left to live following a confirmed diagnosis of fatal mesothelioma cancer. The task of an asbestosis lawyer is to quickly trace the employers and their insurers, and to try and obtain an admission of liability.

At the outset, an employer or insurer may deny any knowledge of the victim working at their company or disputes the existence of asbestos, or level of exposure risk. As a result, the claim process may slow and not be resolved in time for the victim to see justice for himself and his family. Delays drawn out by the defendant employer could mean that the final payment award will be substantially lower than if the victim was still alive, as the results of the DWP survey appear to confirm.

It was also the inability of around 3,500 victims and their families to trace employer or insurers every year, which eventually led to the introduction of the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payments Scheme (DMPS) in 2014 as a scheme of “last resort”. An estimated 5,000 people are currently expected to die from asbestos-related diseases each year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and a further 45,000 deaths caused by mesothelioma is also forecast by 2050.