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MoJ Mesothelioma consultation
Disease Aware Issue 3
Mesothelioma is a dreadful disease. It is invariably fatal and often very painful. It frequently strikes sufferers just at the age where they are looking forward to a long, active and hard earned retirement. It causes unimaginable distress to sufferers and their families.
Mesothelioma is the legacy of exposure to asbestos many years ago. Today's sufferers were let down time after time by those on whom they should have been able to rely. Employers continued to expose workers when the lethal dangers of asbestos were known. Asbestos manufacturers continued to profit from selling their dangerous products. The Government and its agencies failed to halt exposure and even exposed many of their own employees to asbestos dust. Trade Unions, now so vocal in their support for victims, did very little to prevent their members' exposure.
When such wrong has been done by such a combination of culpable parties, the law owes a duty to ensure that the system of compensation should be as smooth and rapid as possible. The existing Mesothelioma Practice Direction drives fast claim resolution once a case litigates. There is much more that can be done at an earlier stage to speed fair settlement and control costs.
To that end, and with the full support of the ABI, the Ministry of Justice has announced its formal consultation on reforming the process for mesothelioma claims.
This has three essential components:
- Mesothelioma Pre Action Protocol, designed specifically to meet the unique and demanding needs of mesothelioma claimants.
- A Secure Mesothelioma Claims Gateway to optimise instant exchange of vital information.
- A fixed costs regime.
The best claimant solicitors already know that early and comprehensive provision of information to defendants is the most effective way to ensure rapid and fair settlement. Among defendant law firms, Keoghs has led the way with its 4TP programme. This provides a collaborative and efficient process, establishing a level of trust which itself promotes openness.
The MoJ's consultation coincides with the establishment of the Mesothelioma Support Scheme. This insurance industry funded scheme will make payment to those who cannot trace culpable employers or their insurers. It will begin operation next year.
The effect of this disease and the knowledge of how it was caused means that voices can be raised and easy refuge taken in confrontational language and tactics. There is no doubt that moral outrage is an appropriate human response to such a wrong done to so many people. This must not come at the expense of those same people.
The MoJ consultation offers an opportunity for all those involved in mesothelioma claims to improve the process for sufferers.
Claimant representatives will not wholeheartedly agree with every part of the consultation. It remains their own moral duty to engage constructively and imaginatively with the consultation - and put the interests of the sufferer right at the heart of the process.