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Asbestos compensation victories and delays for families

Compensation victory

In March, thousands of families whose relatives were killed by asbestos cancers won a landmark compensation victory. The Supreme Court ruled that insurers who offered cover at the time employees inhaled the deadly fibres will have to pay compensation, even if the victims fell ill years later.

The court unanimously agreed that the wording commonly used in employers’ liability insurance policies, that the disease should be “sustained” or “contracted” during employment, should not be taken literally to mean “occurred”. Exposing employees to asbestos is enough to make employers or insurers liable, even if the disease only appears years later.

Four insurance companies have been fighting to avoid payouts to 6,000 families who have a member who has died or is suffering from mesothelioma. They now face a compensation bill of over £600 million. Up to 25,000 families could be affected by the ruling, and future claims could push the potential bill up to £5 billion.

Legal delays

But Government cuts have delayed a new law to speed up compensation claims, meaning doomed workers with asbestos illnesses are dying without compensation.

The law was agreed two years ago, but will now not come into force until 2013 at the earliest. The Ministry of Justice blamed it on “shrinking departmental resources”.

The Health and Safety Executive predicted almost 15,000 will die due to the three year delay. Compensation lawyer Chris Shaw said “It’s disgraceful because they are terminally sick and they need that money. Insurance companies are the only ones profiting from the delay.”

The Ministry of Justice said, “We want to cut down red tape and speed up the legal process so those with genuine asbestos-related illnesses can obtain compensation quicker without unnecessary barriers.”

Asbestos history

Asbestos was widely used as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the mid 1980s. Asbestos becomes dangerous when it is damaged, resulting in asbestos fibres becoming airborne and being breathed in by people nearby.

Asbestos fibres, when inhaled, can cause a range of diseases, including lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural thickening and mesothelioma. Asbestos-related diseases can take 30 to 40 years to develop.

Ivor says…

"It’s heart-wrenching to think of the devastation that illnesses caused by asbestos bring both to the sufferer and to their family and friends. Fonseca & Partners is here to help you if you have been affected by an asbestos related illness, or other workplace injury or illness. We will put all our fire not only into dealing with your case, but supporting and guiding you at this difficult time."

Sources: Independent - Mirror