Following a diagnosis with an asbestos related disease, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. There are a number of asbestos related diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and asbestos related pleural disease which includes pleural plaques.
If a Claimant has been exposed to asbestos at any point in their life, they may have compensation entitlements. This could be from work related asbestos exposure such as a building or plumbing work or serving in the armed forces, or from asbestos exposures that occur outside of employment, such as exposure through renovations undertaken on a house, or even laundering the clothes of a loved one who worked with asbestos.
If a Claimant has been exposed to asbestos in Queensland employment and unfortunately develops an asbestos related disease, they will likely be able to pursue the following entitlements: –
• A claim can be lodged with WorkCover Queensland for any work-related exposure that has played a significant role in the development of the asbestos disease(s) for medical expenses or lump sum compensation; and/or
• A common law claim can be brought for damages against any past employers or manufacturers of the asbestos products used by the Claimant.
There are two ways to obtain lump sum compensation as a result of a successful WorkCover claim, being :-
- Through a Notice of Assessment that will prescribe a permanent impairment rating based of lung function impairment which is caused by the asbestos condition(s). The lump sum awarded will then depend on prescribed permanent impairment level. The lump sums can be as low as a few thousand dollars to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- A terminal latent onset disease payment. Under this regime, a worker will receive the maximum amount of compensation available under relevant workers’ compensation legislation with a sliding scale which applies to reduce the award for workers aged from 70 to 80. Lump sums under this regime can range from over $400,000.00 to $800,000.00.
If there are common law entitlements to be pursued, there are a number of different heads of damage that can be claimed depending on what type of claim is brought (ie against employers or manufacturers) which are broadly as follows:-
• A major head of damage of damage is general damages, which accounts for pain, suffering and loss of amenities. This head of damage could be hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the type of asbestos condition and how it affects the Claimant and is likely to affect them in the future.
• If a Claimant would normally provide care for a family member such as their disabled spouse or a grandchild on a regular basis, there may be an entitlement to make a claim for lost services to the spouse /grandchild.
• Past and future medical expenses is another head of damage that can be claimed. It is important to hold onto all receipts and document any medical expenses to ensure these are fully compensated. It is also important to have an appropriate medico-legal expert provide an opinion on the likely future medical expenses for the condition. Depending on the severity of the condition, these expenses could be quite substantial.
• Another important head of damage is past and future care, whether provided gratuitously (by family members or friends) or paid care. Claimant can be awarded for past care they have received together with their future care requirements. It is often important to brief an Occupational Therapist to assess this head of damage so that the hours of care provided and to be provided are calculated at reasonable commercial rates.
• Past and future economic loss caused by a diagnosis with asbestos disease.
• Home modifications, aids and equipment are also claimable. Again, this is where it is very important to have an Occupational Therapist assess all needs of the Claimant to ensure every aspect of compensation is claimed.
The value of a common law case always depends on the facts and circumstances unique to each case, but can range from $100,000.00 to up to several million dollars.
It is very important that persons diagnosed with asbestos disease seek qualified legal advice to ensure compensation entitlements are maximised.
This blog was written by Sean Ryan, Director
Phone: 07 5593 2122 or Toll Free 1800 316 716