Wednesday, 1 September 2010

MESOTHELIOMA & THE ARMED FORCES


MESOTHELIOMA - caused by the inhalation of asbestos many years ago is about as bad as it gets for industrial injuries leading to death.  The Courts have mercifully developed a fast-track route to compensation for sufferers, or more usually widows.  The Govt have to pay out a lot themselves - to all those who worked in prisons, schools and shipyards for the state - stripping out boilers etc.

There is one section of crown employment however, where full compensation is denied.  Members of the armed forces who were exposed to asbestos before 1987 (and if they were, the exposure is very likely to have been pre-1987) in the course of their duties cannot obtain compensation from the Govt because of section 10 Crown Proceedings Act 1947 - which was repealed prospectively from 1987 onwards only.

This means that civilian employees of the MOD or of the Crown generally can claim compensation, but not military personnel and their families.  The quid pro quo is that military men, women and their families can instead obtain a war pension.  The idea that a war pension replaces full compensation for mesothelioma is a bit of a joke.  General damages for Mesothelioma usually fall within the £60k-£90k range plus loss of earnings/dependency etc whereas war pensions do not even come close (latest rates here - roughly £150 per week for the living and £117 for a widow - so would have to survive 12 years to get £100,000).  The Govt have recently moved to ensure that mesothelioma war pension claimants get 100% entitlement to a war pension automatically - but is that enough?

The law has been adjusted several times (Fairchild, Compensation Act 2006) to permit easy access to compensation for mesothelioma - perhaps a further adjustment is now necessary to stop this injustice?  Perhaps a further Bill to repeal section 10 of the 1947 for military mesothelioma claimants, whenever the disease was contracted?

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