Mesothelioma victims and their families won an important High Court victory last week against the UK Government’s decision to make them pay part of their damages to Solicitors for costs and insurance premiums.
The current rule for Mesothelioma sufferers who bring a civil compensation claim is that, if successful, the Defendant employer who exposed them to asbestos or the insurance company of that employer had to pay all of the victims’ reasonable legal costs.
The UK Government wanted to change this to make Mesothelioma victims pay a success fee of up to 25% of their damages and insurance premium which would have to come out of the Mesothelioma compensation awarded to them for developing this fatal asbestos related cancer; which was caused through no fault of their own after exposure to asbestos at work.
The legal challenge was brought by the Asbestos Victims Support Group Forum, who argued successfully that a proper review of the likely impact of the plans has not been carried out.
The High Court has called upon the Lord Chancellor to carry out a proper review into the impact these changes are likely to have on Mesothelioma sufferers and their families.
This victory for Mesothelioma victims is brilliant news and comes against a backdrop of criticism of the Government’s dealings with the Association of British Insurers (ABI), as it emerged during the judicial review process that the Government had signed a secret Heads of Agreement with the ABI concerning the reform of Mesothelioma claims in July 2012. This agreement included a commitment of the UK Government’s part to increase the legal costs for sufferers in Mesothelioma cases.
Then the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee examined the issue and published a damning report into the conduct of the Government’s so called ‘review’.
So what happens now? Well the Government will have to conduct a proper review into the proposed changes. What we have to do along with the asbestos victim support groups, Mesothelioma sufferers and their families is to lobby our MP’s to argue that changing the law to make Mesothelioma victims pay money out of their compensation would be unjust and unfair.
We have to keep the pressure up on the UK Government now. We owe it to victims of Mesothelioma to see they have justice.
Kim Harrison is a Senior Asbestos & Mesothelioma Compensation Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.
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