Thousands of St Helens ex-miners in line for compensation

A miner at a local mine in 1979
A miner at a local mine in 1979
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Thousands of St Helens miners and their families could be in line for windfalls of up to £25,000 after being short changed TWICE by different law firms over compensation payouts.

Big law firms got rich on claims from injured pitmen representing them for a host of industrial diseases such as vibration white finger.

But after they were exposed for withholding monies the miners then signed up with new companies to help them recover the owed monies.

But now in a cruel twist of fate it has emerged some of these other firms have also left miners thousands of pounds out of pocket by failing to properly investigate their claims.

Miners from the Sutton Manor, Bold and Parkside collieries are said to be affected.

The scandal was uncovered by Professional Negligence expert Robert Godfrey, a partner at Simpson Millar solicitors who has now set up a specialist unit to help ripped off miners.

Alec McFadden, President of the Merseyside branch of the TUC, has urged miners and their families to take immediate action.

He said: “This is an absolute disgrace. To be let down once is bad enough but twice is unforgivable.

“A number of solicitors and claim companies who handled thousands of miners’ cases held themselves up as being experts. It is therefore not unreasonable for the miners and their families to fully trust them and expect them to secure the full level of compensation on their behalf.

“Many of the miners are now very old and many will have died. What is required is a quick and easy scheme so that every living miner with a legitimate claim is now properly compensated. I would urge any miners or their surviving families to contact the new unit.”

Under a 1999 Labour government coal miners compensation scheme over 170,000 coal miners are believed to have been paid compensation for the condition Vibration White Finger suffered at work.

Sufferers have permanent debilitating joint and muscle damage caused by working with vibrating hand-held machinery.

A large number of former St Helens miners suffered injuries working in mines including Sutton Manor, Bold and Parkside Collieries in St Helens and later made compensation claims.

These claims made many lawyers multi-millionaires but since then some have been struck off by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for misleading their clients.

Now other firms who took on miners’ cases to sue their original solicitors are also facing legal action from their own clients after failing to properly investigate their claims.

Robert Godfrey of Simpson Millar solicitors said many ex-miners had been under-compensated for the ‘services’ they could no longer provide for their families, such as gardening, car-washing, window-cleaning and DIY and also loss of earnings.

Individual claims range from a few thousand pounds up to £25,000 for younger victims, who would receive the annual payment for longer.

Robert said last night: “These miners have been let down from start to finish. It’s scandalous that people can be treated in such a way. These were hardworking men who should have been looked after not taken advantage of.

“We estimate there are thousands of miners in Merseyside and the North West out there who have been shortchanged.

“I have heard of individual miners and their families in Merseyside who have been badly let down by professionals, by people they put their faith and trust in.

“It is clear from speaking with miners that they didn’t understand the compensation scheme and more importantly what they entitled to claim. They received little advice and few of these clients ever saw their legal representative.”

One large legal firm Raleys - who had been facing a rash of professional negligence claims from miners for mishandling their original claims - have now placed themselves into administration.

The firm represented north west miners in their claims for compensation over work related injuries, but were criticised for claiming back legal fees from miners whose fees were paid by the Government.

They handled over £77m in claims from injured miners on behalf of the National Union of Miners (NUM) who have severed all links to the firm.

The miners compensation scheme has been the most expensive in British history with the lawyers receiving more money than the miners for whose benefit it was established.

One lawyer Andrew Nutty from Avalon Solicitors firm in Warrington made £13m in 2006 from miners with chest complaints and VVF and was struck off before fleeing abroad to a new life in the sun.