When mesothelioma is diagnosed it’s a heart breaking moment for patients and their families as they come to terms with the fact that their life expectancy has been cut short. Patients have to consider the impact that this will have not only on their own lives, but also that of their families after they have gone. We are often instructed shortly after someone has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and one of the questions that we are frequently asked is how long will my case take?
How long will my case take?
The length of a mesothelioma claim will vary between each individual patient. It depends upon a number of factors, including how much evidence of asbestos exposure there is, if further witnesses need to be sought, if there is identifiable insurance for the company in question and the defendant’s approach to the case.
If liability is admitted early on then cases can progress with significant speed. However, those which are challenged may take longer.
What money could I receive straight away?
In addition to pursuing a claim for compensation, we also look at making applications for benefits on behalf of our clients.
We will make an application for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, a weekly payment from the government and an application for a lump sum payment under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Worker’s Compensation) Act 1979/Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme 2008.
The benefits applications do not require the same standard of proof as a legal compensation claim and therefore these amounts are often paid within a few weeks of the application being made and allow access to funds for mesothelioma patients to use towards travel, care and any other additional costs that they may now be incurring.
Where we are unable to identify employers liability insurers for a former employer who exposed the mesothelioma patient to asbestos dust, we will make an application under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme 2014 to obtain compensation payments where none can be obtained through a civil claim.
What about an interim payment during a mesothelioma compensation claim?
Once liability has been admitted in a case, or judgment has been entered, then we can request that an interim payment is made. This is part payment of the compensation due to the mesothelioma patient and is a sum which will be paid immediately without having to wait until the conclusion of the litigation. Once the claim has concluded the interim payment is offset against the final compensation figure and the claimant will receive the balance due to them.
Interim payments have become especially important in mesothelioma cases, as these interim payment can be used to access alternative treatments including privately funded immunotherapy treatment and chemotherapy, which has been recommended by the patient’s oncologist as an appropriate form of treatment in their circumstance.
This has been an approach which has been favoured by the Court in recent months. In the case of Howard v The Imperial London Hotels Limited  Master Thornett commented that
“Drawing upon interim payments to fund immunotherapy in the circumstances of a case such as this, where the client’s life expectancy is very limited is by far the more flexible and appropriate tool”
An interim payment is an appropriate, swift, tool to obtain early payment of compensation for a mesothelioma patient.
Although used in the context of funding immunotherapy treatment in this article, interim payments can be used to fund a number of different things including private care, funding for higher insurance premiums for travel abroad, or funding for other alternative treatment which the patient may wish to explore. Ultimately, how the patient uses their interim payment is down to them.
Do all Mesothelioma claims result in an interim payment?
Not all mesothelioma claims will be successful in securing interim payments. Interim payments are only paid where there has been an admission of liability by the defendant, or the court has ordered that judgment is entered. This is because interim payments can only be made when it is clear that the claimant’s case will be successful and that they will receive compensation.
If the defendant denies liability then they are unlikely to agree to an interim payment. This does not prevent us from seeking a court order that an interim payment be made and once court proceedings have been issued a summary judgment hearing will take place and the defendant will be expected to show that they have a reasonable prospect of defending the case. If the Judge does not consider they have a reasonable prospect of defending the claim, then they can at this early stage enter judgment on liability and order an interim payment.