Lord Freud sends weak to the wall at ABI conference
Today, at a conference hosted by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), Government Minister Lord Freud unveiled plans for changes to the way that mesothelioma claims are managed and funded.
He said the Government had reached an agreement with insurers to make tariff payments to about 300 mesothelioma sufferers each year, over the next 10 years, where those sufferers cannot trace employers or insurers. In exchange for funding this Scheme insurers have won substantial concessions from the Government which will offset their outlay.
The Government will introduce a "pre-action protocol" for mesothelioma claims, to dictate the pace at which Claimants can progress their claims. Lord Freud said the Government will "review" a recent concession which required negligent employers to pay success fees in mesothelioma cases and will remove it. The Government will introduce an online mesothelioma portal and introduce fixed costs to limit the amount that negligent employers have to pay Claimant lawyers, and punitive costs sanctions if Claimant lawyers fail to abide by the pre-action protocol.
"It has taken the insurance industry more than 20 years to knuckle down to this "partial" solution to the problem of untraced insurers and incomplete insurance records. Although 3,000 Claimants might benefit in the next 10 years, perhaps the same number have already missed out in the past 10 or 15 years. Abolition of success fees will make it more difficult to investigate claims and will restrict access to justice. The Government and insurers complain about a slow and inefficient system, but users of the Mesothelioma Fast Track at the Royal Courts of Justice in London simply do not recognise that picture. Over 10 years a unique culture of co-operation has grown up around the Mesothelioma Fast Track and I fear these reforms do nothing but harm access to justice. What the insurers give with one hand it seems the Government takes away with another."