Sufferers of mesothelioma and their families who live in Wales will be relieved to receive this month’s announcement that the Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases Bill was passed by the Welsh Assembly.

From November 21st, the cost of asbestosis treatment will be recovered by the Welsh assembly from an employer or an insurer – including employers outside of Wales if the patient was treated by Wales NHS – following a judgement or mesothelioma claim settlement.

The coming into force of the Bill, which was introduced in 2012 by Assembly Member for Pontypridd, Mick Antoniw and supported by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), could see the NHS in Wales receive up to £1 million each year.

According to Mick Antoniw,” “It is only right that medical costs incurred by the NHS should be recovered from those who caused the disease and used to give more support to asbestos victims and their families.”

“A significant improvement to the quality of life”

In Wales, nearly 100 deaths reported each year are thought to be caused by the fatal, incurable mesothelioma cancer, which is estimated to cost the NHS in Wales more than £2 million. Mr Antoniw said he believed the new Welsh law would make “a significant improvement to the quality of life” of those who have suffered because of asbestos-related disease, adding that the additional money could mean an “additional 20 cancer nurses…” could be employed or additional research conducted into the cause and treatment of asbestos disease.

Every year more than 3,000 asbestos disease sufferers are unable to trace their original employer/ insurer or discover that the company had been dissolved. Mesothelioma victims, their spouse and close family can often experience tremendous difficulties and long time delays in pursuing a mesothelioma claim, invariably, accompanied by a deepening financial burden as a result of medical treatments and related healthcare expenses.

Tracing original employers and their insurers

One of the key tasks for an asbestosis lawyer is to trace original employers and their insurers but even if a former employer has ceased trading, the insurers may be identified as the “Employer’s Liability Insurers.”

In January 2010, the Ministry Of Justice announced plans to create an Employers’ Liability Tracing Bureau as a “fund of last resort” for those victims unable to obtain compensation. Due to come into force in July 2014, the funding will be only made available for those patients diagnosed with mesothelioma (and no other asbestosis disease) after 25th July 2012. In addition, mesothelioma claimants will not receive full compensation as the scheme will not operate as “no fault” and time limits for applications are to be set.

For many victims and their families, the claims process can seem daunting. The standard time period for commencing proceedings to bring a mesothelioma claim is three-years and failure to initiate a court action within the strict time limit means being barred from continuing to pursue the claim.

Time limit for making a claim

However, for the mesothelioma patient, the limitation period begins not from the actual time during which they claim to have been exposed to asbestos, but from when asbestosis symptoms appeared or the disease is diagnosed and causally linked to the original asbestos exposure.

Tragically, in many cases, the patient who initiated the claim will pass away before the process can be completed or in some instances even before it began. In these circumstances, the three year time limit will commence from the date of the victim’s death, which allows the spouse or a family member to pursue the claim on behalf of the deceased. However, this is can only take place where the three year period has not already expired during the lifetime of the deceased.

Around 4,700 asbestos disease related deaths are recorded annually in the UK (Health and Safety Executive) and the number of asbestosis claim cases has more than doubled in three years to over 1,160 cases in 2010.