Asbestos campaigners have warned the government it would be a mistake to introduce blanket fixed costs for all mesothelioma cases.
Justice minister Helen Grant confirmed last month that a consultation will start in the spring on reform of mesothelioma cases.
Proposals will include fixed legal fees, a dedicated pre-action protocol for claims and an electronic portal to process and settle cases as quickly as possible,
Tony Whitston, chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum, said ministers should not make the mistake of thinking claims are always simple or straightforward.
‘A more sophisticated approach to costs must be found that would command the support of the judiciary and claimant community as well as government concerns about litigation costs,’ he said. ‘Most importantly it should ensure access to justice for all mesothelioma sufferers.’
The issue of claims for asbestos-related disease has been on hold since the Ministry of Justice opted to exempt them from the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. An impact review on the effect of changes to no-win, no-fee agreements and scrapping the recoverability of after-the-event insurance will be published in the autumn.
Grant said a quick pre-litigation process is the best way to settle claims early and ensure early payment of compensation is made.
‘A claim for compensation can take up to two years to settle which means that sufferers often die before their claims are paid out.’