There's a moment in most games of Monopoly when you have to make the choice.

Your opponent needs your Pall Mall to complete their set, and they'll offer you a red, a green and a station in return. The deal looks too good to be true - what the hell is she playing at giving up so much?

Of course, it eventually transpires she was playing the long game, and before long you'll be struggling to pay £6 for landing on Old Kent Road.

You won't hear many dissenting voices from insurers about the government's proposed deal for mesothelioma claims. In fact, I'm quite sure they'll be delighted with the package. They will have to fund, at long last, a scheme for helping victims trace businesses’ insurers from decades ago. Finally this will mean justice for those who deserve it.

But the insurers will happily agree to this because the adjoining proposal for an online portal for out-of-court settlements is like Christmas come early.

Fewer court appearances mean reduced costs, which equal bigger profits - as the government impact assessment admits. Like the wily Monopoly player, they're playing the long game and know they have the advantage.

Claimant lawyers responding to the government's consultation, which opened yesterday, face a real rock-and-a-hard-place decision. If they oppose the portal idea on the grounds that settlements will be lower without lawyers fighting the victims' cause, they're accused of protectionism and putting their own interests ahead of clients who need a quick turnaround of the claim more than anyone.

If they agree, it's another revenue stream either disappearing or drastically reduced.

The government, with classic brass neck, suggests less mesothelioma business will 'free up claimant lawyer resource to be devoted to other profitable activities'. Quite what profitable activities are still available is not immediately clear.

The trouble is that concerns about this scheme are to a certain extent justified. The impact assessment says that average settlement levels for litigated claims settled between 2007 and 2012 was £171,200, compared with £138,900 for claims that stayed out of court.

Put simply, if you rush claims through out of court, it will cost the claimant on average £30,000. Sure, victims are more likely to gain redress while they're fit enough to use it, but the legacy to their families is significantly reduced.

Depending on your priorities, this may or may not help victims of mesothelioma. For claimant lawyers, who will rightly argue that their primary concern is with their client, it's another blow to revenue and a shift towards a claims culture that eliminates solicitors from the process.

The biggest winners will be the insurers, paying reduced legal costs and reduced settlements. Like that Monopoly decision, you have to look at what your opponent has to gain before you rush into a deal.

John Hyde is a Gazette reporter

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