Someone take responsibility for the Chester Street victims, pleads Frances McCarthy....

It has been almost three months since Chester Street Insurance Holdings announced its insolvency. Since then, the government and the insurance industry have done little to help the former policyholders claim the compensation they are entitled to.

Thousands of asbestosis sufferers have to face the uncertainty of whether they will receive even a small proportion of their damages, and if they do, whether it will reach them in time to help relieve their suffering.

There have been endless questions from angry and worried MPs, while government departments bat the problem back and forth, perhaps hoping that it will go away in the hubbub surrounding foot-and-mouth disease and the election.

At the time of writing, the latest from the insurance industry is that the “small category of pre-1972 claimants whose employer is insolvent” will be dealt with by existing government schemes. But these are well known to be woefully inadequate. No information has been given about which companies are included in this “small category”, either by the liquidators, the insurance industry, or the government.

We still do not know how insurers are getting away without facing up to their responsibilities, and the government maintains its position that it is looking “carefully” at the situation affecting these people.

The buck-passing has to stop now. The situation is perfectly clear: without immediate action, we will find ourselves trying to explain to dying workers and bereaved families exactly why nobody cares enough to accept responsibility for giving them the compensation they so desperately need.

  • Frances McCarthy is president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.


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