The exceptionally long gestation period of up to 50 years, which can elapse from the period of initial exposure and breathing in of the deadly fibres to the first appearance of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms can often mean that a liable company is no longer in business, and the employer and/or company insurers cannot be traced.
With a three year limit for victims to enter a mesothelioma claim once a confirmed diagnosis is made, it is often the spouses or closest family members who will be left to continue the process alongside the asbestosis lawyer. A victim’s life expectancy when mesothelioma is discovered at an advanced stage may be as little as 4 – 6 months.
However, as from 25th July, a new support scheme has been launched by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), aimed to provide vital financial assistance to some 300 mesothelioma victims each year who up until now were unable to proceed with a mesothelioma claim because liable employers or insurers could not be found.
The announcement comes after a two-year wait since the last government consultation on the need for a ”fund of last resort”. The new scheme, which will hand out around £ 300 million in the first ten years, is limited to mesothelioma victims only and not those who suffer with asbestosis diseases, pleural thickening and asbestos-related lung cancer.
It should also be noted that while the announced package of measures are ultimately aimed to help a mesothelioma claim to be processed much faster than previously, legislation is required before the scheme can begin for first payments due to be made by July 2014.
Among some of the measure to be introduced will be “changes to the Civil Procedure Rules” to ensure that evidence is disclosed early and “improvements in providing the information held by the Government needed to support claims”, including employment schedules from HM Revenue and Customs.
While criticism has been levelled at the scheme for being too limited and the delay in implementation a needless cause of additional suffering, it is hoped that some 3,000 mesothelioma victims ( and their families) around the UK will be given the much needed financial assistance on top of the £ 200 million currently paid out each year.
According to the HSE, over 4,000 asbestos disease related deaths are recorded annually in the UK, including over 2,000 cases of mesothelioma.