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Impact of legal reforms explained to Yorkshire mesothelioma victims
Yorkshire mesothelioma victims and families of those affected by the disease met with specialist nurses and lawyers on Friday (24 May) to discuss the impact of legal reforms on their own rights to compensation.
The Leeds Mesothelioma Support Group meeting, at the city centre’s Park Plaza Hotel, was organised as a forum for anyone diagnosed or affected by the asbestos-related cancer to share experiences and offer advice to one another.
“The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that those who are affected by mesothelioma were able to meet not only with lung cancer nurses and others from the region who find themselves in the same unfortunate circumstances,” said Bridget, “but also with lawyers with the specialist knowledge that is needed to make sure they receive the compensation to which they are entitled.”
Bridget, who for many years has seen first-hand the devastating impact of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses, explained to the group that although legal reforms which came into force on 1 April 2013 under the LASPO Act (Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders) might not yet affect the claims process as it currently stood, the Mesothelioma Bill outlined in the recent Queen’s Speech most certainly would.
“This new bill would address the single biggest problem in these cases, which is tracing the employer’s insurer from the time the victim was exposed to asbestos,” she said. “Mesothelioma can take many years – sometimes decades – to develop, and by the time someone is diagnosed it is often the case that an employer has ceased trading or relevant insurance documents have been lost or misplaced.”
Bridget explained to the group that the bill would enable those diagnosed with mesothelioma since 25 July 2012 to make a claim, even if their employer’s insurer could not be traced.
“Whilst the bill is obviously welcome news for those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma on or after 25 July last year, unfortunately it brings nothing in the way of help for victims diagnosed before that date and who also cannot trace their employer’s insurer,” said Bridget, a senior litigator with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
“The bill also falls down on a number of points – not least the fact that the proposal is to offer victims a payout set at 70% of the average compensation paid out by insurers to those not using the scheme,” she said. “The range of compensation awarded in mesothelioma cases covers two extremes, particularly when it includes victims who settle early, without seeking legal advice, in order to ensure they receive any money at a time they need it for bills and care,” she said. “To take an ‘average’ and then cap payments at 70% of that average is not just arbitrary but massively unfair.”
Following the meeting, Bridget renewed the call for MPs to ensure the bill was significantly amended before it was passed. “Campaigners and action groups are united in urging Members of Parliament to vote with their consciences and make several amendments to the bill as it stands,” she said. “Just by speaking with the Leeds Mesothelioma Support Group today, it is apparent that this bill is not what victims have called for nor what is needed, and there are a great many fundamental points that need to be re-examined and amended before it is passed as legislation.”
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