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Asbestos victims welcome government consultation on Employers Liability Insurance Bureau

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The Government has begun a consultation on whether an Employers' Liability Insurance Bureau (ELIB) should be opened.

It would ensure compensation for those affected by asbestos-related disease, but who are prevented from claiming because they cannot trace an insurer for the company where they were exposed to the cancer-causing material.

Those suffering from asbestos related illness may have been exposed at work as long as 40-years-ago.

The company where they were exposed to asbestos may no longer exist, but if the company insurer can be traced a compensation claim can be made.

Despite the fact there is a legal requirement for companies to keep insurance certificates for 40 years, there's no central storage system of these insurance policies.

Currently, an insurance trace can be made through the Association of British Insurers (ABI), but its voluntary code relies on the cooperation of insurers to provide information about policies they've written.

The lack of success in tracing insurance policies through the ABI is revealed by the Department of Work and Pensions figures from 2008, which showed an online tracing system success rate of just 45%. The potential effect of this is that 55% of people making searches have been denied the right to claim compensation.

One of the functions of an ELIB would be to collate and store insurance policy information and, most importantly, insurers would also be expected to contribute to a central fund to pay out on cases where there's no insurance – similar to how the Motor Insurance Bureau works.

In the current economic climate, where many companies are being forced to close down, those insurance certificates may be lost forever.

Unless the Government sets up an ELIB, the problems with finding insurers to pay out compensation to sufferers will continue.

Access Legal from Shoosmiths associate and asbestos specialist Sara Hunt said: "The introduction of an ELIB would ensure greater justice for those suffering the painful and often debilitating effects of asbestos related conditions. It isn't fair that those suffering in this way should be denied compensation because an insurer can't be traced."

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