Recently, a call on Parliament was made to allow those suffering with pleural plaques to claim asbestos compensation from employers who failed to protect their workforce from exposure to the deadly mineral.
Proposals are currently being put to the Welsh assembly, which would force businesses to pay the costs for employees undergoing asbestosis treatments for asbestos related diseases caused by exposure in the workplace.
In Wales, there are nearly 100 deaths per year from asbestos-related diseases, such as the incurable mesothelioma cancer, and the care provided is estimated to cost the Welsh NHS more than £2 million per year.
Under the proposed ‘Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases Bill’, the Welsh government could reimburse the NHS in Wales for the cost of treatment from an employer or an insurer following a judgement or settlement in a mesothelioma claim. In addition, if a victim of asbestos exposure is treated by the Welsh NHS, their employer would still be liable to pay, even if located outside of Wales.
The private members bill is however being strongly argued against by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which claims that the Welsh assembly lacks the authority to change the law, despite recognising its powers to determine health policy.
With a new set of proposals focused on helping mesothelioma sufferers to be introduced across England and Wales by 2014 anyway, the ABI also dispute that the financial burden on the NHS would be eased nor actually help asbestosis sufferers. They conclude that new “costs” would arise, which inevitably, would be recovered from current policy holders.
On previous occasions, insurers have contested moves to compensate asbestos-disease sufferers. One example was the Employers Liability Policy Trigger Litigation in 2010 when a Supreme Court ruling allowed a claimant’s appeal to proceed, in opposition to a group of insurers who vigorously argued against a claim for asbestosis compensation could be backdated to the period of time when a victim was first exposed rather than up to 50 years later when asbestosis symptoms first appear, long after the insurance cover period has expired and the victim has retired.
A vital and often urgent underpinning to mesothelioma compensation, especially when there is a short prognosis, is the reassurance of both financial and psychological support at a vulnerable time for the claimant, spouse and their closest family members.