It was recently reported in the Independent newspaper that insurance companies are failing mesothelioma sufferers because many of the insurance policies meant to protect workers have been lost.
At the moment, if a company no longer exists, investigations will be made with the Association of British Insurers who will circulate the enquiry to the insurance companies that are members of their organisation. This accounts for only about 80% of all the insurance companies in the UK. The insurance company will then consider their records and reply if they find a matching policy. In the experience of we solicitors the success rate is pitifully low. This scheme is currently run by the insurance industry itself and there is no legal requirement for the insurers to register their interest or keep records of their policies for a long length of time. This is a huge problem for the victims of asbestos exposure as they can develop health problems up to 40 years after exposure and the insurance company may no longer have a record of the insurance policy.
If an insurer cannot be found and the company no longer exists then the claim will sadly end.
It was reported in the paper that untraced mesothelioma claims save the insurance industry £60 million pounds a year. It was also estimated that 48% of requests to find insurance policies for mesothelioma sufferers failed.
Clearly there is a conflict of interest with the insurance industry maintaining and running the scheme when tens of millions of pounds are involved.
The Government are considering a more formal tracing system and the establishment of a fund to compensate victims where the insurance history cannot be traced. This cannot come soon enough for many unfortunate victims.