Monday, August 19, 2013

Can We Do More to Help Asbestos Sufferers in this Country?

Brought to you by our friends at Spencers Solicitors

The Mesothelioma Bill is now under consideration from the House of Commons and, once officially passed, will allow asbestos sufferers to claim for compensation - even if the body responsible for exposing the individual to the cancerous microfibers cannot be traced.

It’s a positive move but, for me, the minutia of the Bill has triggered a series of concerns - which echo those highlighted by Labour’s Lord McKenzie:
  1. The compensation level for those claiming against untraceable bodies is insufficient
  2. Not every type of asbestos-related disease is covered by the Bill
  3. The Bill only applies to those diagnosed after July 2012
The first point refers to the 70% cap on compensation detailed within the Bill - for sufferers who have no means of claiming against an actual organisation responsible for their disease (usually because the organisation has dissolved).

On what grounds should one person living with exactly the same disease deserve less compensation than another (up to a third less)?

The Bill exclusively applies to those suffering from diffuse mesothelioma and any ‘long-tail’ diseases are not covered.

Again, why the inconsistency?

The final point makes the least sense to me. There is a ‘cut-off’ date which excludes thousands of genuine sufferers who need (and deserve) the compensation, just as much as somebody receiving an unfortunate diagnosis say, tomorrow.

I welcome any shift towards more accessible justice but if the Bill is truly to be hailed as a ‘major step forward’, it ought to completely rectify the injustice of neglected asbestos victims in this country.

Many share this view, as The Justice for Asbestos Campaign calls for members of the public to sign the petition urging for the bill to be amended.

A Lesson from Down Under
Just over a month ago, a statement from the government’s Committee on Carcinogenicity suggested that children are more susceptible to developing mesothelioma than adults. This gives us cause to zoom further into the picture and focus on the ongoing issue of asbestos in British schools.

We know that 75% of British schools still contain cancerous asbestos fibres, yet the government has no widespread removal plan in place - instead, the policy is to ‘manage’ asbestos materials.

Contrastingly, Australia’s government passed an Asbestos Safety and Eradication Bill in June. An agency has been formed and is now tasked with investigating asbestos in schools. Following its thorough investigation, the agency will be responsible for orchestrating a nationwide eradication process.

This focus on reducing exposure to asbestos ought to be praised. Meanwhile, the UK could be accused on paying far too much attention to what is seemingly an inadequate Mesothelioma Bill.

My view is that we need to at least iron out the three flaws in the Bill discussed earlier and work on a long-term prevention scheme (like Australia) in the meantime.

What do you think? Outline your thoughts in the comments and let’s generate some further online insight for this topic.

Also, please share this post to help raise awareness and we might just influence the government to take inspiration from Down Under.

About the author
Emma Melia is a Solicitor and lead litigator within Spencers Solicitors catastrophic injury team.  Emma has over 16 years extensive experience with major injury cases achieving a number of settlements in excess of 2 million pounds involving traumatic brain and spinal injuries.

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