Equitas and a group of London Market insurers have tightened up their procedures for handling asbestos claims.

They have issued joint guidelines which state they will pay only those asbestos bodily injury claims supported by adequate medical evidence and which identify a defendant's product responsible for the injury.

The new procedures will apply from June 1. They are said to signal a heightened scrutiny of asbestos claims and an unwillingness to support payments to non-injured claimants. Equitas, the run-off vehicle for pre-1992 Lloyd's losses, said the guidelines were needed to ensure there were adequate funds to meet future claims.

Glenn Brace, head of asbestos, pollution and health hazard claims for Equitas, said: “This is one step to limit abuses in what has become an asbestos litigation industry.”

He added: “We support a system in which injured people receive fair compensation from companies responsible for their injuries, and we back reimbursement of such payments by insurers.

“However, payments to people who are not harmed, or by companies which did no harm, are not justified.”

For some time, Equitas and London Market insurers have made relatively small payments to claimants showing no visible signs of injury in an attempt to resolve large numbers of asbestos claims on a wholesale basis.

However, Equitas said this strategy had only encouraged claims from uninjured people. The move towards closer scrutiny follows a significant increase in asbestos claims in the US over the past two years, which has forced Equitas to review its level of reserves twice in that period.