Irwin Mitchell's record victory for miners suffering from Vibration White Finger is believed to be the first post-litigation compensation scheme to be approved by a UK court.
In an example of case management which is likely to become the norm under the Woolf reforms - the judge led negotiations after the final appeal - a detailed compensation scheme had been agreed between the Department of Trade and Industry and the miners' lawyers.
At £500m, the compensation payout is a record for Britain and will cover an estimated 40,000 miners. But Andrew Tucker of Irwin Mitchell says that record is likely to fall in the next few months, with a compensation for miners suffering from chest diseases expected to reach £15bn.
John Pickering, Irwin Mitchell's head of personal injury, says that while similar schemes had been settled prior to litigation, this was the first to be formulated after the action.
He believes the success of the negotiations augurs well for such claims after 26 April. Because it has been settled before a judge, it will "dispose of the vast majority of cases" without challenge. The claims will be tested over the next two years before a final amount of between £5000 and £50,000 is given to each miner.