What is it?

Asbestos disease refers to a group of lung diseases that are caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in construction, manufacturing, and other industries due to its heat-resistant and insulating properties. 

When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs and cause inflammation, scarring, and other damage over time. This can lead to a range of asbestos-related diseases, including: 

  1. Mesothelioma – a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or other organs. 
  2. Asbestosis – a chronic lung disease that causes scarring of the lung tissue and can lead to breathing difficulties. 
  3. Lung cancer – a cancer that develops in the lungs and is often linked to smoking, but can also be caused by asbestos exposure. 
  4. Pleural thickening – a condition where the lining of the lungs becomes thickened, which can cause breathing difficulties. 

How does it happen?

Asbestos disease is usually caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, which can occur when working with or around asbestos-containing materials. Workers who are most at risk of asbestos exposure include those who work in industries such as construction, shipbuilding, and manufacturing, as well as those who work in older buildings that contain asbestos. 

Asbestos fibers can become airborne when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, such as during construction, demolition, renovation, or repair work. Workers who breathe in these fibers can inhale them deep into their lungs, where they can become lodged and cause inflammation, scarring, and other damage over time. 

Workers who are most at risk of asbestos exposure include those who work with or around the following materials: 

  • Asbestos-containing insulation materials, such as pipe insulation, duct insulation, and boiler insulation. 
  • Asbestos-containing building materials, such as roofing materials, floor tiles, and insulation board. 
  • Asbestos-containing automotive parts, such as brake pads and clutch facings. 
  • Asbestos-containing textiles, such as protective clothing, gloves, and blankets. 

What can I do?

If you are a worker who has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease and you believe it has happened during the course of your duties, you may be entitled the pursue the following entitlements under WorkCover Queensland: –  

a. Claim lodged through WorkCover Queensland for a work-related exposure that played a significant role in the development of the asbestos disease for medical expenses / treatment and / or lump sum compensation; and / or  

b. A common law claim can be brought for damages against the party (normally employer or manufacturer).  

a. WorkCover Claim

There are two ways to receive a lump sum compensation after a successful WorkCover claim: 

  1. Notice of Assessment: This involves a permanent impairment rating based on the level of lung function impairment caused by the asbestos-related condition(s). The lump sum amount will depend on the level of prescribed permanent impairment, which can range from a few thousand dollars to several hundreds of thousands of dollars. 
  2. Terminal Latent Onset Disease Payment: This option provides the maximum compensation available under relevant workers’ compensation legislation for workers diagnosed with a terminal asbestos-related disease. The amount of compensation awarded will depend on the age of the worker, with a sliding scale reducing the award for workers aged between 70 and 80. 

b. Common law claim

If there are entitlements to be pursued under common law, various heads of damage can be claimed depending on the type of claim brought (i.e., against employers or manufacturers). These include: 

  • General damages, which account for pain, suffering, and loss of amenities, and can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the type of asbestos condition and its impact on the Claimant’s life now and in the future. 
  • Lost services to a spouse or grandchild, if the Claimant would normally provide care for them on a regular basis. 
  • Past and future medical expenses, including all receipts and expenses related to medical care, as well as an opinion from a medico-legal expert on likely future medical expenses. The severity of the condition will determine the amount of compensation awarded, which could be substantial. 
  •  Past and future care, whether provided gratuitously or paid, by family members or friends. Compensation can be awarded for past care received and future care requirements. It is important to have an Occupational Therapist assess this head of damage to calculate reasonable commercial rates for the hours of care provided and to be provided. 
  • Past and future economic loss resulting from a diagnosis with asbestos disease. 
  • Claimable home modifications, aids, and equipment. An Occupational Therapist can assess the Claimant’s needs to ensure all aspects of compensation are claimed. 

Conclusion

The quantum amount compensable in damages for both of the abovementioned claims depends on the unique facts and circumstances of each case. It is essential for individuals diagnosed with asbestos disease to seek qualified legal advice to ensure their entitlements to compensation or maximized and they are adequately compensated.  

Ellie White and our team at Littles are specialists in personal injury who can assist you with your claim on a “No Win No Fee” basis. If you would like advice in relation to your personal injury, please reach out to Ellie White for a free no obligation chat.  

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