Accident and Injury Claims Centre welcomes asbestos–related cancer law

A LEADING Scottish lawyer has welcomed the announcement of forthcoming Scottish Executive legislation designed to help victims of an asbestos-related cancer, as well as their families and dependents.

Norman Geddes, senior director at the Ayrshire-based, a division of Frazer Coogans Solicitors, Ayr, says that the Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) Bill will allow mesothelioma sufferers to claim full compensation, and their families to claim for their own grief and suffering.

Norman explained: "Under the current law, sufferers of mesothelioma - an asbestos-related cancer which can develop up to 40 years after exposure to asbestos - face the dilemma of either settling their damages claim while alive, or not settling their claim before death so their relatives can claim greater awards. Most sufferers do not claim themselves, so as not to disadvantage their families.

"The Bill that has now been put before the Scottish Parliament following a consultation which ran in July and August, will remedy this situation by allowing the immediate family to claim damages for non-financial loss even if the deceased settled their own claim while alive. It will apply to cases where the sufferer's own case is concluded after the Bill comes into force as an Act - expected to be by next March."

The Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) Bill only applies to that one disease, the most unpleasant of the fatal conditions contracted from even a tiny particle of asbestos lodging in the lung, and taking up to 30 years to kill its victim. There are at present about 1900 people dying from it in Britain every year, but numbers are expected to soar over the next decade.

The law is changing a loophole in past laws, which meant compensation could be paid to a living sufferer, but at a lower rate than would be paid to the surviving family after death. That has left victims facing the dilemma of choosing between maximising their families' benefit, but at personal cost in the final months of their lives.

Lawyers campaigning for victims hoped the law change could go wider than mesothelioma, to avoid the same impact on those suffering from other work-related fatal illnesses. But it was limited to the one condition to let it go through before Parliament is dissolved for next year’s election.

Norman Geddes concluded: "Victims will now be able to pursue those responsible for compensation without fear that the rights of their families to compensation for their loss being extinguished."

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