Mesothelioma sufferers who may only have a few months to live are finally given access to receiving a better quality of life in the remaining time, which could also see their dependents are left more financially secure.

This month saw the start of compensation awarded under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) increased from 80 per cent to 100 per cent of  an average civil mesothelioma claim. However, the scheme only allows those victims of asbestos exposure who were diagnosed with mesothelioma after 25th July 2012 to be eligible to apply.

It has also been pointed out that there is no provision or mention of retroactive payments to be made for the agreed exempted amount since DMPS was introduced in July 2014.

Pressure from concerned groups

Since the passing of the scheme in the Mesothelioma Bill in January 2014, it has been consistently argued by asbestosis lawyers that mesothelioma claim victims should maintain their original full exemption on the grounds that a change in the law would bring significant financial difficulties to victims and their families.

The original proposal set out in the early stages of the Mesothelioma Bill to bring in the new scheme was for an exemption of 25 per cent for mesothelioma victims, which was later revised down to 20 per cent under pressure from concerned mesothelioma victim support groups and with the support of the MPs and the House of Lords.

When it was announced that a Legal Aid Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Act 2013 (LASPOA) would be introduced, which would force the claimant to pay the success fee when they win their case, it was pointed out that a government consultation had not been given enough time for them to fully understand that mesothelioma cases were of a different category to standard injury claims.

Under the ‘no-win, no fee’ arrangement, the ‘success fee’ could be recovered from the defendant, i.e. legal expenses from an insurance policy previously taken out could be recovered if a claim for an illness or injury was successful.

Thousands excluded…

A number of House of Commons MPs, along with many mesothelioma victim support groups and legal firms have continued to voice their concern that there will be thousands of men and women diagnosed with other types of asbestosis diseases, such as pleural plaques, who are clearly excluded from the scheme.

DMPS was set up as a “fund of last resort” to around 3,500 mesothelioma sufferers who every year are unable to trace their original employer or insurer.

As specialist asbestosis lawyers, the scheme has been welcomed by WESolicitors in its aim to help “a small, albeit important number of mesothelioma victims and their families who otherwise would receive no compensation.” However, when the Bill was originally passed, Steven Evans, Partner and Head of the asbestos department at WESolicitors also questioned why the scheme, “was not extended to include victims of asbestos related lung cancer and other conditions.”

Stephen has also highlighted that the scheme still requires mesothelioma sufferers to prove that they were negligently exposed to asbestos at work and they are genuinely unable to trace a former employer or insurer. Often the process demands that victims “make exhaustive enquiries as to the identity of the insurance companies before they will be eligible to submit a claim under the scheme.”

Less than six months to live

Victims and their families can simply be overwhelmed by the enormity of the hurdles they face in the weeks and months following a confirmed diagnosis. The most immediate anxieties are likely to include questions over how long they may have left to continue working and supporting the family to who will pay the mortgage after they’ve gone.

In most cases, patient and spouse may only have less than six months to see if they can secure the financial future of the remaining partner. DMPS and this week’s introduction of the entire success fee exemption should be thought of as ‘ making a good start’ but many excluded sufferers of asbestos-related cancers and diseases are also looking for help.