Voting for or against amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has begun in Parliament. Included, are those provisions in personal injury awards, and changes affecting payments for mesothelioma compensation, as part of government measures to save £350 million a year and also speed up legal proceedings.
It can often be a long and challenging process for an asbestosis lawyer to bring a former employer and / or their insurers to court and establish liability for a claimant’s mesothelioma or related asbestosis disease. Under the proposed government changes to the ‘no-win, no fee’ arrangements, it would be the successful mesothelioma claimant who would be required to pay up to a maximum of 25 per cent of the damages awarded and not the losing defendant.
The Review of Civil Litigation Costs 2009, which was set up to provide recommendations to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill also proposed that general damages awards for personal injuries and other civil wrongs should be increased by 10 per cent.
However, a sustained campaign has been mounted in a bid to make justice ministers reconsider their proposals aimed at preventing false or excessive claims, so that an injury payment awarded under an asbestosis or mesothelioma claim would be exempt for the time being from the changes.
Recognition is being sought from ministers of the special case for mesothelioma sufferers. There is an exceptionally long latency period of up to 50 or 50 years from the initial exposure and breathing in of asbestos fibres to the eventual appearance of asbestosis symptoms. Almost invariably, a patient can often have just few months to live from a confirmed diagnosis of mesothelioma, an incurable and fatal cancer – and at a time when both patient and their families need financial support and security.
Accordingly, while a delay to changes, which would affect an asbestosis claim is being considered, alternative, easier ways to track down former employers’ insurers are also being put forward by justice ministers and an announcement is expected in July 2012.
However, the results of the voting in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill have already seen the House of Lords calling for the reinstatement of amendments that had been earlier rejected by the House of Commons. Consequently, members of Parliament will now have to decide whether to accept the results of the peers’ vote or seek to overturn the amendment once again.