ARTICLE
15 April 2024

Asbestos compensation claims in Queensland

HP
Hall Payne Lawyers

Contributor

Home to some of Australia's top-ranked employment lawyers, Hall Payne is recognised as a leading employment law firms by the prestigious Doyle's Guide. We aim to resolve your employment dispute quickly, fairly and discreetly. Our cost-effective legal advice spans all areas of employment law.
Compensation options for workers who were exposed to asbestos dust and fibres in the course of their employment.
Australia Employment and HR
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If you've been exposed to asbestos, whether decades ago or only recently, and you've been diagnosed with an asbestos-related injury or illness, you may be entitled to compensation. Asbestos compensation is not limited to people exposed at work. Your asbestos exposure may have been in the family home, other private dwelling or a public place. However, in this article, we are going to focus on the compensation options for workers who were exposed to asbestos dust and fibres in the course of their employment.

Compensation options available due to asbestos exposure at work

If your asbestos exposure occurred at work and you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, you may be entitled to claim  worker's compensation in the state where you were exposed or via the national  Comcare scheme. In Queensland, this is generally through the state's workers' compensation insurance provider, WorkCover Queensland.

Occupations such as carpentry and joinery tradespeople, plumbers, electricians and any workers in the construction industry are generally considered to be at a higher risk of being exposed to asbestos in the course of their employment.  

If your exposure to asbestos dust was a result of your employer's negligence or a third party, you may be able to pursue a common law claim for compensation for an asbestos-related illness.

What compensation is payable for asbestos claims related to exposure at work?

If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease due to exposure in the course of your employment, you may be entitled to  workers' compensation. The compensation amount you may be entitled to will depend on the level of permanent impairment resulting from the asbestos-related disease and whether your condition is terminal.

In Queensland, workers who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and exposure to asbestos dust in the workplace was a "significant contributing factor" are able to claim compensation for:

  • all medical and hospital expenses incurred as a result of the disease;
  • lost wages caused by their condition; and/or
  • a lump sum amount.

Under Queensland workers' compensation legislation, if your asbestos-related disease has been diagnosed as terminal, you or your family may be entitled to additional lump sum compensation.

If you are successful in a common law claim for an asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation for:

  • the pain and suffering you have endured;
  • loss of income, both in the past and future;
  • entitlements to superannuation on your loss of income;
  • any out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the diagnosis, such as medical and pharmaceutical expenses; and
  • care provided to you commercially or by family and friends.

In Queensland, if a loved one has passed away from an asbestos-related disease due to exposure in the workplace, and you are considered the worker's dependent, you may be entitled to claim reasonable funeral expenses.

What personal injuries and illnesses are associated with asbestos exposure?

Mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure

Mesothelioma is a cancer which is caused by exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma affects the mesothelium, which is a layer of cells that surrounds organs and tissues in the chest, abdomen and pelvis. When asbestos fibres are inhaled, the particles become lodged in the mesothelium, which causes inflammation. This results in scar tissue plaques forming on the surface of the mesothelium. It is within this scar tissue that cancerous tumours begin to grow.

There are two main types of mesothelioma: pleural and peritoneal. Pleural mesothelioma is the common most form of mesothelioma, and it develops in the lining of the lungs. Peritoneal mesothelioma, on the other hand, develops in the lining of the abdomen. In rare cases, mesothelioma can develop in the lining of the heart or the lining of the testes.

As a result of the country's past extensive use of asbestos, Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world. Mesothelioma can take between 20 to 50 years after exposure for symptoms to appear, with the average age of diagnosis being 77 years of age.

Although asbestos products were banned in Australia 20 years ago, the number of Australians being diagnosed with mesothelioma has steadily increased over the past 40 years.

Lung cancer after asbestos exposure

Inhaling asbestos particles has been linked to an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Asbestos-caused lung cancer differs from mesothelioma as the cancer develops inside the lung, as opposed to in the lining of the lung.

People who have been exposed to significant amounts of asbestos particles for a long period of time are most at risk of developing lung cancer as a result of the exposure. Additionally, it has been found that the risk of asbestos-caused lung cancer increases significantly for smokers because cigarette smoking diminishes the lung's ability to remove the asbestos fibres. Asbestos-caused lung cancer will typically be diagnosed 10 to 30 years after exposure to asbestos.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease where there is widespread scarring of the lung tissue, which is caused by the inhalation of asbestos particles. As the scarring increases, the affected part of the lung becomes shrunken and breathing becomes difficult.

Asbestosis develops after prolonged exposure to asbestos particles and therefore is often linked to occupational exposure to asbestos. Symptoms for asbestosis usually develop between 5 to 20 years after exposure. Asbestosis is linked to a high risk of developing mesothelioma and asbestos-caused lung cancer.

Are there time limits for asbestos compensation claims?

In Queensland, there a strict time limits to lodge an application for workers' compensation. To make an application for workers' compensation for an asbestos-related disease, you must make a claim within 6 months of the date of diagnosis.

If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, it is important that you seek immediate legal advice if you wish to apply for workers' compensation. If claims are not lodged within the time limit, entitlements to compensation may be lost.

The National Asbestos Exposure Register

In June 2013, the Australian Government created the National Asbestos Exposure Register (NAER). The NAER is a voluntary, privacy-protected register for members of the community to record information regarding their exposure to asbestos.

As the period between exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease can be decades, the NAER operates so that individuals can record accurate details regarding their asbestos exposure at, or close to, the time the exposure occurred. This information may then be accessed if they are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease in the future.

Recording this information can also be important in pursuing a worker's compensation claim if an individual has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease after occupational exposure to asbestos in the workplace.  

Asbestos compensation claims can be difficult but not impossible

Due to the period between exposure to asbestos dust and fibres and the onset of asbestos-related diseases often being decades, there can be an added complexity to asbestos-related compensation claims. With the passing of time, historical records (including employment and medical records) can be difficult to track down, memories fade, and witnesses may no longer be available.

This should not deter you from investigating your options to pursue a claim.

Even though asbestos is now completely banned in Australia, hundreds of Australians each year continue to be diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases and claim compensation for illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

Get help from an asbestos compensation lawyer

If you have suffered injury or illness as a result of exposure to asbestos, whether in your workplace or elsewhere, the  dust diseases team at Hall Payne Lawyers can assist you with your compensation entitlements. Even if your asbestos exposure was decades ago, if you've been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, you may have a compensation claim.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

ARTICLE
15 April 2024

Asbestos compensation claims in Queensland

Australia Employment and HR

Contributor

Home to some of Australia's top-ranked employment lawyers, Hall Payne is recognised as a leading employment law firms by the prestigious Doyle's Guide. We aim to resolve your employment dispute quickly, fairly and discreetly. Our cost-effective legal advice spans all areas of employment law.
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