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Laura Blane, PartnerA recently created support scheme for victims of mesothelioma – a terminal cancer caused by asbestos exposure – is set to exclude thousands of sufferers of other asbestos-related diseases who might otherwise have been given access to essential compensation.

Each year, many asbestosis victims are unable to claim compensation from their employers who negligently exposed them to the toxic substance due to the company ceasing to exist and their insurers being difficult to trace.

The insurer-funded scheme unveiled late last month seeks to address this problem by ring fencing £300m to compensate those diagnosed with mesothelioma from 25 July 2012 who cannot trace their relevant insurer or employer.

However, the limitations of this ‘fund of last resort’ are immediately apparent.

Not only does the 25 July 2012 time limit exclude those diagnosed with mesothelioma prior to that date – the scheme also ignores those suffering from other asbestos-related diseases, such as pleural thickening, as well as other cancers with similar prognoses.

Mesothelioma is an incurable form of cancer that typically takes ten to sixty years from exposure before symptoms develop. It is a slow and silent killer, however once a diagnosis of mesothelioma is given, victims are not expected to survive a further 18 months.

Perhaps most upsetting for those who will currently qualify for compensation under the scheme is the fact that the first payments to victims will not occur until July 2014 – a full two years from now. 

Critics of the insurance fund argue that it does not go far enough in supporting victims of industrial disease.

Laura Blane, partner at Thompsons Solicitors and an expert in asbestos litigation, comments: “It was hoped that a fund of last resort would greatly simplify and hasten the process of gaining compensation for many suffering from asbestos-related disease.

“While we are pleased that there is finally recognition of these victims’ rights, the compensation fund has serious shortcomings and simply cannot meet these expectations.

“The scheme will overlook thousands of victims with other asbestos-related illnesses and those with a mesothelioma diagnosis before this arbitrary time limit – people for whom time is quickly running out.

“Those fortunate enough to benefit from the scheme just now will also have to defy the bleak life expectancy statistics to gain comfort in their last days.”


Notes to editors:

•    To arrange further comments/quotes from Laura Blane, contact Tim Weir on 07974 262 997



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