The government’s decision not to change the way asbestos-related compensation claims are made has been welcomed by lawyers and campaigners.
But asbestos victims and their supporters have condemned the government’s decision to cite the Mesothelioma Bill as one of the grounds for imposing legal costs on mesothelioma sufferers.
A consultation to speed up the settlement of mesothelioma claims in England and Wales focused on new legal procedures to improve the system for claiming for asbestos-related cancer.
The Association of British Insures had called for mesothelioma claims to be dealt with under a portal system with fixed legal costs in place.
However, lawyers argued this gave limited scope for proper investigations and raised concerns it would limit access to justice for victims.
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.”
Following the consultation, which ran until October 2nd and received over 100 responses, the government has rejected the plans.
A ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We have declined to take forward a dedicated Mesothelioma Pre-Action Protocol supported by a fixed recoverable costs regime as they currently stand on the grounds that there is not a strong enough case that they will meet the Government’s declared aim of ensuring that mesothelioma compensation claims are settled quickly – where necessary – and fairly.”
A spokesman from the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (AVSGF) said: “Asbestos victims support groups have welcomed this sensible decision to abandon the consultation reforms which were written by the Association of British Insurers in their interests and contrary to the interests of asbestos victims.
“But, asbestos victims and their supporters condemn the Government’s decision to cite the Mesothelioma Bill as one of the grounds for imposing legal costs on mesothelioma sufferers in the consultation/review required under Section 48 LASPO Act 2012. The Government’s subsequent ministerial statement compounds the irrationality of the decision to cite the Mesothelioma Bill in the review.”