These proposed government reforms will do nothing to help mesothelioma victims from asbestos in schools…
Since 2010 Julie Winn, our York-based legal specialist on asbestos, has been Chair of the national Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC). With the aim of making all UK schools safe from the dangers of asbestos, JUAC works closely with the Department for Education steering group, Asbestos in Schools (AIS).
AIS is a non party political campaign group striving to make UK schools and colleges safe from the dangers of asbestos. Members include mesothelioma victims and their families, asbestos victim support groups and claimant solicitors.
To AIS the proposed, insurance industry-driven government reforms to the mesothelioma claims process represent a huge backward step in providing access to justice for victims of asbestos in schools.
Mesothelioma claims brought as a result of exposure to asbestos in UK schools and colleges are extremely complex and difficult to prove. The proposed fixed costs regime will act as a deterrent to solicitors not wishing to take on this type of complex, high risk work, potentially leaving victims of low-level school exposure without representation.
- Exposures relating to asbestos in school claims are often over long periods and at low levels. Cases are heavily reliant on expert medical evidence about the latency period and causation of injury. Low level exposure remains a contentious issue, and analysis by a suitable expert is absolutely essential to the success of the case.
- These cases rely on the memories of victims about historical daily routines, maintenance activities in the school, and the location, extent and condition of asbestos in the buildings in which they worked. So it’s vital that the victim has the earliest possible opportunity to give evidence in person.
- School claims require extensive investigation. Schools have often not retained the relevant corroborative documents and, with increasing conversions to academy and free school status, the risk of documents being lost is likely to increase. Early disclosure by defendants and their insurers of key documents relating to the type, extent and condition of the asbestos in the school, maintenance, repairs and renovations, asbestos surveys and management plans is also vital.
Often a pre-action disclosure application is required due to the defendant’s failure to provide information. The current pre-action disease protocol, the ability to make pre-action disclosure applications, and the RCJ fast track and show cause procedures address these difficulties for claimants for who time is of the essence in securing access to justice.
The proposed changes will do nothing to improve the situation for such claimants. If you can’t afford to risk potentially enormous fees/costs, you might never have a chance of getting the redress you deserve.