Government industrial illness shake-up to cure PI headaches

THE GOVERNMENT is to announce plans that will make it easier for solicitors to identify insurers of companies whose former workers have developed industrial illnesses.

The Lawyer understands that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will announce the initiative later this month – but is still deciding which of two options to pursue.

Searching for the insurers of companies which may have closed down decades ago is currently a major headache for personal injury solicitors approached by former workers suffering from industrial illnesses.

The two options being explored by the Government are either to set up a national register of insurers administered by the insurance industry itself or to impose a strict code of practice on the industry backed by sanctions requiring it to help solicitors identify insurers.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has been lobbying against a national register (the option favoured by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) because of the cost of having to run it.

An ABI spokesman said insurers would pass the cost of running it onto their clients, raising the price of premiums.

But Martyn Day, senior partner of Leigh Day & Co, blasted the ABI's view as “nonsense”.

Day said a national register with public access would be “fantastic news” and would cost the insurance industry “a minuscule amount compared to all the other administrative burdens in life we deal with”.

The Lawyer understands that the Government will set up a working party made up of union representatives, personal injury lawyers and insurers to implement its proposals.