Occupational injuries and diseases are not limited to sore wrists and the occasional cold. Workers routinely contract crippling conditions just from carrying out their daily work duties. The government wants to rectify this by addressing the most common cause of work-related deaths: asbestos.
On 30 January 2014, the government passed the Mesothelioma Act 2014 to create the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme, a new insurer-funded compensation scheme for victims of diffuse mesothelioma who are unable to trace a liable former employer, or employers’ liability insurer, that negligently exposed them to asbestos. On 1 July 2014, the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2014 will come into effect and increase the average payments the scheme awards to mesothelioma victims.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, such as the lungs, and almost always arises from asbestos exposure. Because mesothelioma is a disease with latent symptoms, it can take 40 or 50 years to diagnose the disease after initial exposure. Most cases are therefore diagnosed in the late stages, and only when the disease’s non-specific symptoms become very noticeable. The confluence of these factors means that life expectancy after diagnosis averages eight to nine months.
Victims of work-related mesothelioma often struggle to find a culpable party to sue for damages due to the long period between exposure and diagnosis. Over this time companies can become insolvent, and their insurance records can become incomplete or lost.
Starting 1 July 2014, the government will increase the average payments of £115,000, which is 75 per cent of average civil damages, to £123,000, which is 80 per cent of average civil damages. The scheme will also pay £7,000 towards victims’ legal costs. It is expected to pay out to over 800 eligible people in 2014 and 300 people for each successive year until 2024.
People or their dependants are eligible for payment under this scheme if they were first diagnosed on or after 25 July 2012, are able to prove a work-related asbestos exposure, and are unable to sue because their employers or insurers cannot be traced or found.