Government proposals to change the way cancer victims claim compensation for a fatal work-related cancer are unworkable and unfair, according to lawyers.
The consultation to speed up the settlement of mesothelioma claims in England and Wales, which closed on October 2, focused on new legal procedures to improve the system for claiming for asbestos-related cancer.
But lawyers acting for cancer victims say the proposals are a missed opportunity.
Karl Tonks, former president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), said: “What dying mesothelioma victims need from the legal process is a protocol which provides them with automatic interim payments, early admissions of liability from culpable defendants and easier access to medical, work and pensions records.
“Such changes would speed up the conduct of these cases and cut costs in the process.”
Mr Tonks believes the proposal in the consultation to introduce a new protocol to settle more cases out of court is a good idea in principle, but getting defendants to admit liability could still be a drawn-out process.
He added: “Taking cases to the specialist mesothelioma court is usually the only way to persuade defendants and their insurers to admit liability for causing the disease, and to get the claim settled quickly.
“It is also often the only way to obtain early interim payments to help provide some comfort for the victim in his final months, without having to wait for the case to end,” he added.
“We know from experience and from our own research that almost half of those lawyers asked said defendants admit liability in fewer than ten per cent of cases during the protocol already in place.
“Almost a quarter said defendants don’t admit liability at all within the protocol period.
“These were all cases which the mesothelioma victims won, so there was no valid reason why liability should not have been admitted in the first place.
“The proposals condemn sick and dying victims to spend their last months in pointless legal wrangling.
“The discussion is far from over and we will be doing everything we can to ensure people dying of this terrible disease are the real focus of any reforms.”
For more information about making claims for work-related illness, call PM Law solicitors in Sheffield on 0114 296 5444.