Since 1942, employers in New South Wales involved in “dusty” work have been required to contribute, in addition to normal workers compensation payments, to a fund established under the Workers Compensation (Dust Disease) Act.
This fund exists to make payments to workers who develop dust related diseases, and to fund the work of the Dust Diseases Authority (known as the Dust Diseases Board until 2015) which administers the payments.
Compensation payments made by the DDA are generally made in addition to a claim for damages at common law.
Payments to workers
A key part of the work of the DDA is to administer payments to NSW workers who develop dust diseases. Dust diseases are defined under the Act and include mesothelioma, asbestos induced lung cancer, asbestosis, asbestos related pleural disease, silicosis, progressive massive fibrosis and various other dust disease.
Under NSW law, the DDA is required to provide compensation to persons who have been diagnosed with a dust related condition causing disability in the form of:
- weekly payments to the worker, and to the workers’ dependants in the event of death;
- payments of medical and other expenses;
- payments to dependent in the event of death;
- payments to cover funeral expenses;
Payments made by the DDA are limited to workers whose exposure to dust was while employed in NSW. People whose only exposure was as contractors or were self- employed are not entitled to payments. Similarly peoples whose only exposure was outside of work (such as during home renovations or by washing the clothes), as employees of the Commonwealth, or outside of New South Wales cannot claim compensation from the DDA.
Segelov Taylor can assist in making a claim on the DDA.
The process for making application to the Dust Board
An application to the DDA is an administrative process.
The primary step is to complete an application form and sign authorities to allow the DDA to investigate your application.
Eligibility for a benefit from the DDA requires consideration of three elements:
- Do you suffer from a dust related disease-causing disability?
- If yes, was that disease caused by exposure to dust in the course of employment in NSW;
- If yes, what is the level of disability arising for the exposure to dust in the course of employment in NSW.
These questions are determined by reference to your medical reports obtained by the DDA, any reports or investigations conduct by the DDA, and an Industrial History which sets out your employment history with reference to exposure to asbestos and other dusts.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos related lung cancer, the DDA will generally determine that you are 100% disabled as a result of your condition. For other conditions, the level of disablement is determined by an assessment of chest x-rays or CT Scans, lung function tests and medical examinations by a doctor.
The determination of disability is made by the Medical Panel of the DDA (which consists of three respiratory specialists) who issue a Certificate of Disablement. The determination of the Medical Authority and the Certificate of Disablement will be placed before the CEO of the DDA, who will determine your compensation.
Your level of disability will determine the amount of your pension. For example, if you are assessed as having asbestosis with a 60% disability then you will be awarded 60% of a full pension. The DDA will continue to monitor you on a regular basis, everyone to three years. If your condition deteriorates then your level of disability and your pension will increase.
Once an award is granted the DDA will pay all your medical, hospital, pharmaceutical, nursing and other expenses including nursing aids and equipment expenses as a result of your dust disease. The DDA will also pay for assistance you require around the home such as lawn mowing, gardening and cleaning.
If you die as a result of your dust disease than your estate will be entitled to funeral expenses up to $9,000.00 and any dependant will be entitled to a lump sum of up to $340,100.00 and weekly compensation of up to $280.00. The amount of lump sum and ongoing compensation will depend on your level of disability at the time of your death and your dependant’s level of dependency at the date of death. A dependant will continue to receive the pension until their death or date of re-marriage.
Pleural plaques are not a dust disease under the Act. Pleural plaques are a marker on the lining of your lung that you have been exposed to asbestos. In most cases pleural plaques do not cause any symptoms such as pain or breathlessness and do not predispose you to contract asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you are certified as having pleural plaques only you are not entitled to an award from the DDA. The DDA will however continue to monitor your condition with regular medical examinations every two to three years.
Common Law Claims
A right to claim compensation from the DDA is separate and distinct from your right to bring a claim at common law, that is to make a claim in the courts against a former employer, occupier or manufacturer of asbestos products. If your claim has been accepted by the DDA then it is most likely you also have a right to make a claim at common law.
If you or a family member have any questions about making an application on the Dust Diseases Authority, or seeking compensation as a result of asbestos exposure, please contact Tanya Segelov of Segelov Taylor Lawyers on 02 8880 0500 or email@example.com.
We act on a “no-win no fee” basis for all asbestos and dust disease claims. This means you will not be charged any money upfront and will only be charged for our legal costs if you are successful in your claim.