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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 May, 2004, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Firms axed from miners' comp list
Miners generic
It is the biggest personal injury scheme in British legal history
Solicitors who have failed to say whether they charged miners or their widows trying to claim compensation for industrial diseases have been named.

The Department of Trade and Industry has named 11 practices in Wales which have been removed from their approved list.

The move comes after letters were issued to solicitors from government minister Nigel Griffiths.

He wanted to know if they charged miners a fee for handling successful cases - and if so - did they refund these overpayments.

"Solicitors who have double charged should be proactively paying back the money to miners and their families," he said.

The letters were sent off following a parliamentary question from Graham Allen MP.

The list, on the DTI website, was published at the end of April.

Since the original publication of the list, some solicitors have contacted the DTI to say they should not be included and amendments have been made.

Firms which have changed their name or ceased trading have also been taken off.

Mr Griffiths, Coal Health Minister, has admitted some abuses of the compensation scheme have happened.

The government has promised it will pay legal fees but some law firms were charging a "success fee", it has emerged.

The minister said he had written to lawyers handling claims, to stress that all compensation money should go to miners and their families.

Solicitors have already been generously paid, said the minister.

Mr Griffiths has also written to the Law Society asking them to take action to ensure their members voluntarily refund any fees taken, rather than wait for miners to contact them.

The DTI has closed its two major personal injury compensation schemes for health problems caused by working underground in coal mines in Britain.

Miners who suffered respiratory disease - chronic bronchitis and emphysema - and vibration disease can claim under the scheme.

Because of sheer volume of cases coming forward, handling agreements - which cover liability - were adopted to avoid claims going through the courts.

Schemes closed

The DTI say if a claim is successful there should be no need for solicitors or other organisations handling claims to charge a fee or deduct any compensation because the legal fees will be paid by the DTI.

Claimants are being advised to ask solicitors if there is a charge if a claim is unsuccessful - as many solicitors will waive their charges in this instance.

The DTI say it is paying out 2.5m every working day in compensation for respiratory and vibration-related diseases.

Around 668,000 claimants have been registered and it is estimated that the government will spend more than 7bn in total.


SEE ALSO:
Lawyers accused over coal claims
03 Mar 04  |  South Yorkshire
Miners' 300m compensation
16 Jun 03  |  Wales
Compensation for miner's widow
21 Aug 03  |  Tyne/Wear


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