Judge exposes “large hole” in employers’ insurance27 April 2010
Compensation for Injury and Disease Victims
A High Court judge has described how “countless employees” are falling through the “large hole” in Employers’ Liability insurance and getting no compensation after suffering an injury or disease which was their employer’s fault.
His comments have led to renewed call for an Employers Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) to compensate injured workers and their families.
Judge Ronald Walker QC made his remarks in a High Court case in which yet another asbestos cancer victim was told he will not see a penny in compensation from his former employers.
Thompsons Solicitors says the case reinforces the need for an insurance fund of last resort.
Diagnosed with mesothelioma
Ian Hall, 57, from Borrowash in Derbyshire was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs, caused by exposure to asbestos while removing old boilers from houses when working for Newalls Heating Limited in Derby between 1967 and 1974.
Following his diagnosis in January 2009 he instructed asbestos claims specialists Thompsons Solicitors for advice.
Thompsons was successful in obtaining a High Court judgment for damages against Newall Heating Limited. As the company no longer exists a second claim was brought against AGF Insurance Limited who it was believed held the employer’s insurance policy at the relevant time.
The High Court decided it could not be proven who the insurers were. The decision means that Mr Hall and his family will not receive the compensation he was awarded against Newall Heating Limited.
Employers Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) is needed
The High Court decision comes just weeks after the Government issued a consultation which will look into establishing an Employers Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB). This would provide a fund of last resort for those like Mr Hall and many others who are unable to trace their former employer’s insurers.
The consultation will close in May and will look at how an ELIB would be funded, what type of injuries or disease will be covered and which claims will be eligible.
Judge Walker QC stated: “Mr Hall was entitled to assume that his employers would be insured against employers’ liability risks and that, if he suffered an accident or contracted a disease due to their fault, he would be properly compensated by their insurance company.
“But, in the light of my decision, he will not be. This is a situation in which countless other employees have found themselves over the years. The Department of Work and Pensions has recently issued a consultation paper which looks, among other things, at the establishment of an Employers Liability Insurance Bureau to meet claims such as the present, along the lines of the Motor Insurers Bureau scheme for compensating victims of uninsured drivers.
“Whether such a scheme will be introduced, and if so when, remains to be seen. For the time being, as this case, and many others, demonstrate, the safety net which the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 was intended to provide has a large hole in it”
Establishing an ELIB is vital to protect the interests of people like Mr Hall
Ian McFall, head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors said establishing an ELIB is vital to protect the interests of people like Mr Hall.
“Unfortunately mesothelioma victims do not have the luxury of time to wait for a decision. This must be a priority for a new government.”
Mr Hall added: “The employer I worked for when I got the disease went out of business long ago.
“I’m very disappointed that the High Court did not think the case against the insurance company was proved. There was no other information about who their insurers were. This now means I’m left with no chance of being compensated unless the government make the insurance companies set up this fund.
“I don’t have much time to wait on a decision about whether the government is going to act but if it doesn’t I know there will be many more people left in the same situation as me."
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