Shocking statistics underline need for mesothelioma compensation fund

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Shocking statistics underline need for mesothelioma compensation fund

1st March 2012

New statistics have revealed the towns and regions with higher-than-average rates of deaths from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma, underlining the need for a fund to ensure victims receive the compensation they deserve.

The figures, showing mortality rates for England and Wales from 2006 to the end of 2010, were released by the Office of National Statistics after the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) made requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The statistics make for shocking reading,” said Karl Tonks, head of Employers’ Liability at Fentons Solicitors LLP and vice president of APIL. “They revealed that the town with the highest death rate resulting from mesothelioma was Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria, which has an average of 8.4 deaths arising from mesothelioma in 100,000 people,” said Karl. “That’s almost three-and-a-half times the national average during the same period, which was 2.5.”

These latest statistics follow those published by the Health & Safety Executive at the end of 2011, which showed that deaths from mesothelioma continued to increase annually in Great Britain. “Given that the latest HSE figures showed the number of annual deaths resulting from mesothelioma had reached 2,321, the common opinion that this figure will not peak for another five years makes for a particularly sobering thought,” said Karl.

Mesothelioma is a painful, incurable cancer which affects the lungs, and is almost exclusively caused by workers coming into contact with asbestos. Karl said the names of the ten areas with the highest mortality rates did not come entirely as a surprise, due to the heavy industry associated with the areas, and the likelihood of workers in the region being exposed to asbestos.

“Whilst the statistics are clearly a cause for concern, their publication does also serve to highlight the need for a better system to ensure that those who have developed this terrible disease are able to secure the compensation they deserve,” said Karl.

“It can take many years after exposure before any asbestos-related condition becomes apparent, which can make finding witnesses and information – particularly regarding a company’s insurer - very difficult. At the moment if the insurer cannot be found, then the sufferer may go uncompensated for the fact that all they did was work diligently and subsequently developed this dreadful condition as a result.”

Karl said that just over two years ago, the then government announced plans to set up a ‘fund of last resort’ to pay compensation to those victims unable to trace their employers’ insurer.

“The proposed Employers’ Liability Insurance Bureau would make it much simpler for mesothelioma victims to access the compensation they are entitled to, before, in simplest terms, it is too late for them,” said Karl. “But despite numerous debates and discussions, we are still waiting for the ELIB to be established and help those mesothelioma victims who are dying.”

A similar scheme already exists to assist those who have been affected or injured by uninsured drivers - the Motor Insurers’ Bureau - which is funded by insurance companies.

“The sticking point with establishing the ELIB appears to be its funding,” said Karl. “It is simply taking too long, and the government needs to act now. These cases need to be handled quickly as we are dealing with people who are dying.

“The problem has been caused by insurers, and they should be sorting this out,” said Karl. “There is no central record of employers’ past insurers, and as businesses ceased trading many policies and documents were simply destroyed. But the insurance companies still had the premiums that had been paid, and they should now step up and fund this scheme to compensate the hundreds of innocent workers who were wrongly exposed to asbestos.”

Highest Average Death Rates From Mesothelioma In The UK
(average for UK in same period is 2.5 per 100,000 people)

1)      Barrow-in-Furness, 8.4

2)      Medway, 6.5

3)      Hartlepool, 6.4

4)      Thurrock, 6.0

5)      North Tyneside, 5.8

6)      Portsmouth, 5.5

7)      Newcastle upon Tyne, 5.3

8)      South Tyneside, 5.2

9)      Havering, 4.9

10)  Sunderland, 4.9

Source: Age standardised mortality rate per 100,000 population where mesothelioma was the underlying cause of death, by Local Authority, England and Wales, 2006-2010 (Office of National Statistics)

Read more at: KentOnline, Thurrock Gazette, Romford Recorder, East London Advertiser