Chesterfield family ‘robbed’ over mining compensation vow to fight on

Alison Brooks and Gwen Wright
Alison Brooks and Gwen Wright
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A Chesterfield widow has ‘never recovered’ from being ‘robbed’ out of compensation she was due after her husband died as a result of a life spent working as a miner.

Gwen Wright, who is now 87, lost her husband Dennis in 2001 after he died from diseases directly related to his work down the pits.

The old Markham colliery.

The old Markham colliery.

Dennis had received just £3,400 from a Chesterfield law firm only one year before but, after he died, the family’s lawyers told them they were not entitled to any more.

Gwen’s daughter, Alison Brooks, 51, said: “After dad died, the sister at the Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield told mum that if his death was caused by industrial disease she should get a payout of £10,000.

“The solicitors then contacted mum saying they would like to see her but when we went down they just told us because dad had signed for his compensation already we couldn’t claim for any more.

“It never seemed right to us. Both the initial payout and then being told we couldn’t claim any more.

Alison Brooks and Gwen Wright

Alison Brooks and Gwen Wright

“Mum has been really upset about it for years now - she’s never really recovered.

“She feels like she has been robbed.”

Dennis was 76 when he died of lung cancer and lung disease in 2001 - just one year after getting his compensation.

He spent 25 years working at Grassmoor and Markham collieries and his death certificate clearly states he died as a result of ‘industrial disease’.

Alison contacted the Derbyshire Times last week after the piece we featured two weeks’ ago revealed that thousands of ex-miners could have been left out-of-pocket not once but twice by inadequate compensation payouts.

Her family have since been told that they cannot claim damages for negligence as the initial case was settled more than 15 years ago.

Alison has vowed to fight on, however, by taking the case up with Toby Perkins MP and the Legal Ombudsman.

While Allison’s experience may be the worst we have come across, she is far from the only one to have suffered due to the actions of the allegedly negligent law firms who first processed their claims.

Since our report was published two weeks ago, we have been inundated with phone calls and emails from ex-miners who fear they may have been ‘short changed’ as well.

One of those who contacted us was Glenn Brackenbury from Eckington who worked in various pits in Derbyshire between 1978 and 1993.

He received between one and two thousand pounds in the early 1980s as a result of his injury - a figure he has always felt was too low.

Glenn, who is now 53, said: “The vibration white finger still affects me to this day and stops me gardening and doing my own DIY.

“I also can’t ride my bike as I can’t grip the handlebars properly.

“On cold days it is especially bad.

“Lots of the other lads were with another law firm and they got much more than me despite not having worked for as long.

“I was talking to my mate recently and he got more and got allowances for things like window-cleaning as well.

“I’ll definitely be seeing if I am owed any more.”

People who suffer from vibration white finger like Glenn have permanent and debilitating joint and muscle damage caused by working with vibrating hand-held machinery.

The firm of solicitors that has helped uncover the scandal says some former miners in this area could be owed up to £25,000.

Rob Godfrey, dispute resolution partner with law firm Simpson Millar, said: “Unfortunately there is nothing we can do for Alison and her family as the claim was more than 15 years ago.

“In terms of the other people who have been contacting you I would urge them to get in touch with us to see what we can do.

“We are looking in particular at the issue of whether ‘services’ were included in the original claims that people made.

“This means if people have difficulty in doing normal everyday tasks like DIY or gardening, they can claim for that based on the severity of its impact on their lives.

“We have had a lot of success in the past with cases where advice on this either wasn’t given or was misleading.”

Rob can be contacted at Simpson Millar on 0808 129 3320 or via www.simpsonmillar.co.uk.