Victims of the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma could miss out on more than £30,000 of vital financial support on average, or lose out altogether, if they take up the government’s plea to come forward and make direct applications to its compensation scheme, specialist lawyers have warned.
The Department for Work & Pensions has revealed the scheme, designed to help mesothelioma victims who are unable to trace an employer or an employer’s insurer, has paid out more than £15m in its first seven months.
However, the government added that there may be hundreds of other victims who are eligible to directly apply for the support.
Now, specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are calling on those affected by the terrible legacy of asbestos to ignore the government’s call for direct applications made without consulting a solicitor, warning that at best such a step may mean they receive a smaller amount of compensation to support their care and their loved ones.
According to the experts, failing to speak to legal advisors could mean that victims miss out on £31,250 on average although in many cases this could be significantly higher.
Adrian Budgen, national head of asbestos litigation at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The diffuse mesothelioma payments scheme opened in July 2014 and, while it has provided much-needed support to many, it should be remembered that applicants only receive 80 per cent of the average settlement were a judge to assess the amount of compensation due to a claimant.
“This means that sufferers who have applied for a payment under the scheme are already missing out on important funds to support their care and their families, but they could miss out on even more if they apply to the scheme administrators directly and do not seek legal guidance at all.
“While the Government says making a direct application will mean that victims retain £7,000 set aside for legal costs, what they have failed to mention is that a legal expert could help them identify and sue an employer or its insurer – therefore meaning the compensation that a victim is entitled to is much greater.
“Victims could be missing out on £31,250 on average when government figures are considered, but, in many cases, the sum they stand to lose could be much higher and could even run into six figures.”
“Further, and more worryingly, direct applications could result in victims losing out altogether. This is because the scheme will only pay compensation if the victim can show that legally they would have had a good case if the employer or its insurer could have been traced.
“This means that they still have to demonstrate that the exposure occurred as a result of negligence on the part of the employer. There is a real concern that in making a direct application and, without the assistance of a specialist lawyer, the mesothelioma victim or his/her dependant will fail to overcome this hurdle, or otherwise inadvertently provide information which means that the claim fails.
“The likelihood of such an outcome would increase if, as may occur, after the application was made the identity of the insurer comes to light and the claim is passed to them to deal with.”
Adrian Budgen added: “Every mesothelioma victim has already paid the ultimate price, so it is incredibly worrying to see sufferers offered advice which may mean they could lose out completely or face a significant reduction in the compensation which is paid to help them get the best from their lives and ensure their families have support.
“Specialist legal advice is absolutely paramount if victims of mesothelioma are to be reassured that everything possible has been done to ensure they get the justice they deserve.”