Windfall hope for miners who were ripped off

Former Wigan miners and their families could be in line for windfalls of up to £25k after being short-changed TWICE by different law firms over compensation payouts.
Robert GodfreyRobert Godfrey
Robert Godfrey

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

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

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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.

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

Mr Godfrey said: “These miners have been let down from start to finish. It’s scandalous that people can be treated in such a way.

“We estimate there are thousands of miners in the Wigan area who have been short-changed.

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

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

Many miners suffered injuries working in mines including Parsonage, Golborne and Bickershaw and later made claims.

Under a 1999 Labour government miners’ compensation scheme, over 170,000 are believed to have been paid out for the condition vibration white finger: debilitating joint and muscle damage caused by working with hand-held machinery.

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Mr Godfrey said many ex-miners had been under-compensated for the services they could no longer fulfil for their families, such as DIY and lost earnings.

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

Paul Kelly, who worked at Parsonage, had his claim dealt with fairly but said he knew other miners who were not so lucky and had been robbed of their future.

He said: “This is absolutely despicable. I know other miners and families that will be affected and it is a real kick in the teeth. It’s not about the money, it is about the principle. The lads should have been properly compensated and they were not looked after.

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“Miners gave everything for the job and then this is how they are treated. It is a disgrace.”

Paul, who is unable to work due to crippling arthritis in his joints and breathing difficulties, spends his spare time helping out the homeless with voluntary work.

The 55-year-old added: “Miners are the most humble people but they have been trampled on them and their families don’t deserve to be treated in this way. Proper compensation should be a right for doing such a dangerous job not a way for others to make a quick buck.

“I welcome the news that these firms are now being investigated to pay miners the money they deserve.”

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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.

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

The firm represented 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.

Other legal businesses have been struck off by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for misleading their clients.