What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis (and asbestos related pleural disease) are benign, as opposed to malignant, asbestos diseases.

Asbestosis is a fibrosis (a scarring) of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.  The fibrosis makes it harder to breathe and the most common symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath.  Other symptoms can include chest pain, persistent dry cough and finger clubbing (enlarged fingertips).

The scarring results from asbestos fibres penetrating the lung tissue and causing inflammation.  Unlike some diseases caused by smoking such as COPD, asbestosis affects the lungs, not the airways.  Other conditions lead to a fibrosis of the lungs including silicosis, caused by silica dust, and or various other conditions caused by exposure to other dusts.  When there is no known cause of the fibrosis, it is known as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.  A key element in the diagnostic process is whether the person has been exposed to various dusts.

Asbestosis is often progressive meaning the symptoms (particularity the shortness of breath) get worse.  However, the rate of deterioration varies greatly between people.  In severe cases asbestosis cause respiratory failure and death.

Whereas for a disease like mesothelioma, there no level of asbestos exposure below which there is not a risk of the disease developing, asbestos is is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos usually during the course of manufacturing, construction or heavy industry.  Most people who develop asbestosis had periods where they worked with materials containing asbestos on a daily basis.

What is Asbestos Related Pleural Disease (ARPD)

Like Asbestosis, Asbestos Related Pleural Disease ARPD is a non malignant (ie not a cancer), but rather a “benign” condition.  ARPD often arises following benign asbestos related pleural effusions, which is a build up of fluid in the pleural cavity.

The Symptoms of ARPD are generally shortness of breath and impaired lung function.

While asbestosis generally only occurs when individuals have had a substantial exposure to asbestosis, ARPD can arise with smaller exposures.  However, like asbestosis,, people with ARPD have generally had occupational exposure to asbestosis, rather than simply smaller homer renovation type exposures.

Unlike asbestosis, ARPD is not always progressive, although in some cases it can be.


The primary claim for compensation in a court is known as a common law claim for damages.

Courts in each mainland state have developed special procedures and processes for dealing with claims for asbestos diseases including asbestos and ARPD.  In New South Wales, claims are brought in a specialist court, the Dust Diseases Tribunal (DDT) while in other States claims are brought in special lists in the District or Supreme Courts.

Most claims are brought against former employers and manufacturers of asbestos products. If your former employer no longer exists, you can still sue if we can determine the workers’ compensation insurer of the company.

Asbestosis and ARPD are known as “divisible” diseases.  This means that the law treats each exposure as having caused part of the disease.  By way of example, if a person had two periods of employment with exposure to asbestos – the first for 5 years ad the second for 10 years,  the first employer would be held responsible for one-third of the disease, while the second employer would be responsible for two-thirds of the disease.  Divisible conditions can be contrasted with a disease like mesothelioma.  In indivisible conditions, each employer would be considered to be responsible for the entire disease.

Because Asbestosis and ARPD are  “divisible” diseases it is important to try to identify someone responsible for each period of exposure.  This can be your employer, a product manufacturer, or the occupier of the site you worked on.

In asbestosis and ARPD claims, we act on a full no win no fee basis which means we will not be paid unless you win your claim. More information about our fees is set out on our fee policy page.

How long do claims take?

A claim for a person suffering from asbetsosis or ARPD usually takes between 6 and 9 months to finalise. Claims can run quicker if necessary and have on occasions been completed in as little as a few days.

How much are claims worth?

If you are successful in your claim you will be awarded lump sum payout.  The amount you will recover will depend on the extent of your disability, and the symptoms you have suffered from.  The lump sum is comprised of various “heads of damage”.  Heads of damage include:

  • damages for pain and suffering and, in the event the asbestosis or asbestos related pleural disease will reduce your life expectancy, loss of expectation of life;
  • an amount for the commercial cost of care provided by your friends and family as a result of any disability or limitation you suffer due tot he asbestosis / ARPD,
  • damages for ‘out of pocket expenses’ – the medical and other expenses that you incur as a result of the disease (this head may not be payable if these expenses are paid by the Dust Diseases Board).
  • depending on your circumstances, an amount for the commercial cost of replacing services you provided to others such as young children or a sick or elderly child, spouse or parent which you have not, or will not be able to provide because of your condition.
  • loss of earnings and superannuation if the disease stopped you working.

The Court and any settlement will normally also include an allowance for your legal costs.  The usual amount allowed for is 70-80% of your total costs.

Are there time limits?

All Australian Jurisdictions have amended the law so that there is no time limit in which to commence a claim.  However, in order to recover damages for pain and suffering and loss of expectation of life, the claim must be commenced in the person’s lifetime.

Dust Diseases Authority (DDA)

If you were exposed to asbestos as a worker in New South Wales and you develop a dust related condition you may also have a right to claim a pension and have all your medical, hospital, pharmaceutical, nursing and nursing aids and equipment costs paid. The DDA will also pay for travel expenses and assistance required around your home and garden.  You do not need to live in New South Wales at the time you develop the codnition, although any exposure to asbestos that occurred outside of New South Wales may lead to a reduction in the amounts payable.

An application to the DDA is in addition to your common law claim for damages.  You can (and most people do) do both.

For more information about the DDA, follow this link.

Free Case Assessment

We offer a free initial case assessment.

We will obtain preliminary instructions from you and advise you whether we believe we are able to assist you in your matter.  If we believe we may be able to assist you we will discuss with you the the process, the terms on which we can act (including the likely costs) and the value of the claim.  The case assessment may be by phone, or in person. There is no cost associated with this case assessment, nor any obligation to instruct us in your matter.

You can contact email Tanya Segelov (tanya@segelovtaylor.com.au), phone us on 020 8880 0500 (Sydney) or (03) 9021 7260 (Melbourne) or complete the form below. to arrange your free case assessment.

Common Questions

Are there time limits for bringing a claim?

While the law is different in different statements, there are generally no time limits in claims for claims for asbestosis and ARPD.

I was exposed to asbestos in Australia, but now live overseas? Can I bring a claim?

Your entitlement to bring a claim arises from where you were exposed to asbestos, not where you now live.  We have acted for many clients who have moved from Australia and have lived in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Greece and other countries when they have developed mesothelioma.

If you have divisible disease, like asbestosis or ARPD, and were exposed to asbestos in both Australia and overseas, the amount you can recover may be reduced to take into account your overseas exposure.  This is not true if you have mesothelioma in which case you can recover your full damages in Australia.

We maintain relationships with lawyers in many countries which enables us to effectively represent overseas based clients.

How do legal costs in a claim for asbestosis or ARPD work?

We act on a “no win/no fee” basis in all asbestos and asbestos related pleural disease cases.

As soon as practicable after receiving your instructions, we will issue you a costs disclosure.  That document will set out the terms on which we will act.

We will undertake a through investigation, which may include obtaining medical or other reports prior to commencing rpoceedings and in order to provide you advice on the merits of your cliam.  We will pay for these items.

We will only recover our fees if you are successful in your claim.

You will not be charged any money up front. We will pay all of the disbursements incurred in litigating your claim and we will recover the disbursements and our costs billed on a time basis at the successful completion of your claim. As part of your settlement or judgement the defendant will pay your party/party costs which cover 70 to 80% of your costs.

Please see our Fee Policy in mesothelioma and other dust disease matters page for more information.