Following on from our blog post on 3 December 2014, the Government has announced that from 10 February 2015 mesothelioma sufferers will see their potential payments under the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (“DMPS”) increase. The Department for Work and Pensions issued a press release on 10 February stating that compensation will rise to match 100% of average civil claims (prior to the change sufferers received only 80% of the average), resulting in a potential £54,000 increase per person. Whilst the uprating will apply to those diagnosed from 10 February 2015, the formal payment process will only take effect when the regulations become law in March. This follows a lower than anticipated number of claims since the scheme came into being.
Claimants and asbestos support groups have welcomed this development, but have criticised the fixed uprating date as arbitrary and have called for the scheme to be backdated and extended to all asbestos-related cancer sufferers. Insurers have largely embraced the announcement but warned against further changes. Their concerns are that they are responsible for paying these claims despite taking no premium for them, and it is uncertain if the scheme was backdated whether unforeseen liabilities would be created that the DMPS could not meet. Insurers have also raised concerns that the further changes could see the scheme become a first response rather than a last resort as intended, deterring pursuing the true compensators. Whilst it is generally accepted that mesothelioma is a signature asbestos related disease any expansion of the scheme to other cancers – principally lung cancer – would clearly be controversial given the myriad of potential causes, including smoking.
The DMPS has already paid out £19 million in its first 10 months of operation.