Lawyers are calling on the Government to help the victims of industrial diseases trace their former employers' insurance policies so they can claim compensation.
The call comes after a second review of a voluntary Government code designed to tackle the problem revealed that successful traces - which are carried out by the insurance industry to assist with compensation claims - fell by 14 per cent in 2002-2003.
Allan Gore QC, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, said he was deeply concerned that insurers had so far failed to provide information to explain why the number of traces had dropped.
"There is every chance that people suffering from an industrial disease who can't trace their former employers' insurers will be unable to claim a penny of compensation.
"It is absolutely crucial that the insurance industry provides a satisfactory reason for this drop in successful traces, if this vital service is to improve."
APIL said the Government must now exert some pressure on the industry and demand answers.
"The Government said years ago that if the success rate didn't improve then it would consult with the Association of British Insurers to find ways in which a higher success rate might be achieved, and it must now act upon these words," said Mr Gore.
It was crucial that insurers pool information about searches, and says a database would make the whole process more efficient, he added.
"A central, searchable database would make the system a whole lot slicker, and would save time for everyone involved in these claims."
Victims who drew a blank trying to trace their employers' policies often have no option but to give up their right to compensation.
"We have repeatedly called for an 'employers' insurers bureau' which would act as an insurer of last resort," said Mr Gore.