Scottish asbestos bill will only load more administrative burden to over-stretched claims process, say lawyers
The Scottish bill to recover medical costs for asbestos diseases will lead to over-burdening costs on compensators as well as delays to the claims process and will do little or nothing to improve the overall care services for asbestos victims, law firm DWF has said.
The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Scotland) Bill intends to place the claims from victims of asbestos disease on an “equal footing” with those from accident victims.
In its response to the consultation launched by Stuart McMillan MSP, DWF argues that the bill will have no effect on sufferers of asbestos-related diseases who would retain the same quality of care they already receive. The only outcome would be to simply transfer the cost of the care to the compensators and their insurers.
Caroline Coyle, associate solicitor based in DWF’s Glasgow office said: “We believe the proposal could in fact worsen the position of mesothelioma victims.
“In recent years there has been a drive to improve efficiency in asbestos related disease claims handling.
“The practical difficulties which will be encountered in operating the proposed scheme will undoubtedly add further layers into the claims process and inevitably slow it down.
“The other main aim of the proposal is to ensure that finances are recouped by the NHS on the basis that it is not fair that the financial burden of providing that cost should rest on the taxpayer when compensators are well insured.
“This fails to take into account that this proposal would rewrite the nature of the employer’s liability and would burden the defendants and their insurers with a liability which was never foreseen when the policies were sold and paid for decades ago.
“Earlier this year, the Supreme Court decided on the referral of the Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill by the Counsel General of Wales and found that the proposed legislation on recovery of medical costs fell outside the competency of the Welsh Assembly.”
DWF partner and head of occupational health and casualty Derek Adamson, who gave evidence at the justice select committee inquiry into mesothelomia claims last year, added: “We also anticipate that the proposal will raise potential jurisdictional issues in relation to insurance law, similar to those highlighted by Lord Mance delivering the judgment of the majority in the recent Supreme Court decision on the referral of the Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill.
“The proposed Bill also leaves out of account the significant contribution insurers already make both towards research and through the recently implemented package of reforms designed to assist those suffering from asbestos related conditions.”