Widower’s compensation claim leads to industrial disease law change

A recent test case which saw a widower successfully challenge existing laws regarding the families of the deceased (whose lives were prematurely terminated as a direct result of industrial diseases), has led to a legal overturn in terms of the under-compensation (in relation to their losses) of survivors of those adjudged to have been ‘wrongfully killed’ previously.

Lawyers representing Ian Knauer, whose wife Sally tragically passed after experiencing sustained periods of exposure to asbestos in her role of an administration worker at Guys Marsh Prison in Dorset, now believes that the timely overhaul of this aspect of the justice system will inadvertently mean that the UK insurance industry faces paying out millions more in personal injury claims compensation annually.

Having being afforded the opportunity to put his particular case before a panel of 7 Supreme Court justices, as he sought what he felt were necessary legal revisions which needed to be addressed, Knauer was pleased with the outcome of this case (and the far-reaching implications of such a ruling) which was summarised by the judiciary as, ‘an overwhelming case for changing the law’ relating to the manner in which financial losses of dependants are assessed in the future.

The financial upshot of this change of tack meant that in July 2014 Knauer was awarded High Court damages said to be in the region of £647,840 having – along with his legal team – made a strong case (and all-encompassing fiscal claim) for perceived future loss of dependency, as per the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. The subsequent settlement was paid-out by the Ministry of Justice which was left no choice other than to admit liability for mother-of-three, Sally Knauer’s death from the effects of mesothelioma at the age of 46-years in 2009.

Existing Wrongful Death Compensation Calculations Successfully Challenged by Widow of Mesothelioma Victim in Landmark Case

Speaking of the Supreme Court’s verdict and ruling, Knauer’s personal injury representatives stressed that this new thinking will completely alter the law for fatal accident case landscapes here in the UK; and more pertinently its applications when covering key areas such as medical negligence, industrial disease and fatal road traffic accident claims.

Knauer’s team were of the educated opinion that scores of claimants would have been, retrospectively, ‘grossly under-compensated’ at the time and confirmed that henceforth multipliers (which are recruited to calculate the final compensation figure) will be worked out from the date of the trial, rather than the date of death. Such a revision will establish protocol that going forward will see personal injury claimants receiving greater sums to compensate for loss of income and services according to legal experts.

Paying attention to the previous legal stance on such matters, the Supreme Court judges unanimously agreed that the era in which the House of Lords originally calculated the multiplier for the date of death (as opposed to the date of trial) had gone, and that ostensibly the factors which once played integral roles in determining such sums didn’t necessarily need to be as sophisticated as is now the case. Commenting on this landmark ruling, the judges who were instrumental in making it said; “Of course, there are some harms which no amount of money can properly redress, and these include the loss of a wife or husband,” before going on to add; “There are also harms which it is difficult to assess, especially those which will be suffered in the future, but the principle of full compensation is clear.”

Speaking on behalf of Knauer, a spokesperson for the personal injury lawyers which had successfully helped the widower challenge and ultimately change existing laws, said; “Our client did not bring the appeal for the sake of getting more damages, but to help other people who will have to bring claims in the future,” concluding; “He felt, as a result, perhaps his wife did not die from mesothelioma in vain and she was able to help future claimants.”


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