In December of last year, the Ministry of Justice announced its plans to launch a consultation on reforms to speed up and develop the procedures currently governing mesothelioma claims. The Consultation Period for the proposals for a Mesothelioma Pre-Action Protocol (MPAP), which were put forward by the Association of British Insurers, opened in July and is set to close this month.
The Government’s proposal is for a fast-track, fixed cost online compensation process for mesothelioma claims. The idea is to create a Pre-Action Protocol with strict rules that must be adhered to, similar to that is currently contained within the Civil Procedure Rules for other types of personal injury claim.
The main rationale behind the new protocol is to award sufferers with the compensation they deserve swiftly and fairly and to ensure that the majority of claims settle before Court Proceedings are issued. The aggressive and terminal nature of mesothelioma means that the sufferer can have only 9 months to live from the point of diagnosis. Moreover, many sufferers are not actually diagnosed with this deadly disease until the onset of symptoms begins. This means there is a small time frame in which sufferers can establish the liable party and bring a claim.
What would be the effect on Claimants?
Whilst a fast track online system would mean that claims have a better chance of being dealt with quicker and more efficiently, the flipside to this is that cases could be settled for significantly less than their actual worth. The Asbestos Victims Support Group are widely contesting the new proposals, which are clearly to the advantage of insurance companies, on the grounds that introducing a new fixed cost regime with set timeframes will ultimately restrict sufferers’ access to justice and detriment an already weak sufferer, who would then have to ‘shop around’ for legal assistance.
What would be the effect from the Solicitor’s point of view?
Under the new proposed protocol, there would be fixed fees in place for lawyers acting on behalf of mesothelioma sufferers. Interestingly, these fixed costs would be applicable to those representing the claimant: not a defendant. By their very nature, claims of this kind are extremely complex and can involve going back decades to seek out and examine evidence with a fine toothcomb. The knock on effect of a fixed costs regime is that it will inevitably impact on the claimant solicitor’s ability to undertake these types of claims economically. So whilst in theory, the new Protocol would help terminally ill sufferers to receive compensation more quickly, the reality is that the majority of defendants of these cases do not admit liability until Court Proceedings have issued. Surely the focus of a regime should be to ensure victims are the focus of any reforms and receive the full compensation they deserve?
For more information about making a mesothelioma claim, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our experienced personal injury solicitors can guide you through the process and wherever possible, will act for you on a no win no fee basis.