Universal Mesothelioma Compensation 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen

 

 

If everything goes according to plan, shortly after Parliament convenes for the Autumn 2008 session, anyone who is diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos in the UK, whether through occupational, para-occupational or environmental exposure, will be entitled to compensation from the Government. When The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill comes into force, the UK will become only the 2nd national jurisdiction to have universal mesothelioma compensation.1 While some people including MP Michael Clapham “thought we would have had it (the Bill) through in a month and on the statute books,”2 the legislative process has been time-consuming and painstaking involving input from HM Treasury, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Department for Social Development, Northern Ireland, Jobcentre Plus and the Scottish Office as well as other stakeholders including the Association of British Insurers, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, asbestos victims' groups and others who work on various aspects of mesothelioma treatment and/or compensation.3

The Bill, which is awaiting its report stage and third reading in the House of Lords, should receive Royal Assent by the end of May 2008;4 after that, secondary legislation will be drafted to fill in details such as amounts to be paid out to claimants. There will be a sliding scale of payments depending on individual factors including age at diagnosis. It is anticipated that the average payment will be 10,000 during the first two years of the scheme operating. In later years, the size of payments would increase as funds allow; hopefully in year three, the levels of compensation from the mesothelioma scheme will be the same as those paid out by the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979, currently averaging 19,500. The priority is to ensure that awards are paid out quickly so that claimants can have the benefit of them during their lifetimes.

A close reading of the Regulatory Impact Assessment (2007) is informative on several counts: 5

  • the Government will, for the first time, recover payments made under the 1979 Act and the new mesothelioma scheme from defendants' insurers and other negligent parties in order to fund universal mesothelioma compensation: “These proposals would mean that employers and insurers would not be able to deduct the 1979 Act payments from their settlements of civil compensation; this includes other government departments who have liability for 1979 Act diseases, and the total cost is about 12m per year. The present value of the cost of the proposal over 10 years at 2005 prices is around 100m ($198m).”
  • the Department of Work and Pensions want to pay compensation to all mesothelioma sufferers: “Success would be defined by the number of people that are paid under the new scheme. DWP have estimated 1400 additional claims in 2008/09 and then 600 additional claims in each subsequent year until 2015/2016.”
  • government departments with asbestos-related liabilities arising from nationalization or privatization (such as the MoD or the DTI) could incur some additional costs, estimated at 0.6m/year for the DTI.
  • an extra 229,000 (2008/09) and 88,000 (2009/10 onwards) would be added to the administrative costs of the DWP.

In August/September 2008, Jobcentre Plus will organize regional events to explain the new legislation to lung cancer nurses, asbestos victim support groups and other interested parties.

April 20, 2008

_______

1 The Government of the Netherlands was the first to award lump sum payments to all mesothelioma sufferers when it adopted a scheme in October 2007.

2 Blundell H. Interview: Michael Clapham MP. APIL Newsletter Vol 18, Issue 3. March 2008.

3 http://www.dwp.gov.uk/childmaintenance/pdfs/cm-bill-ria1.pdf

4 Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill [As Amended in Grand Committee]
http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2007-08/childmaitenanceandotherpayments.html

5 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmbills/118/en/2007118en.pdf

 

 

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