Asbestosis and asbestos related pleural disease are benign, as opposed to malignant asbestos diseases.
Asbestosis is a scarring of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos. The scarring makes it harder to breathe and the most common symptom of asbestosis is shortness of breath. Asbestosis can progress and in severe cases cause respiratory failure and death. Asbestosis is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos usually during the course of manufacturing, construction and heavy industry.
Asbestos related pleural disease (ARPD) is a thickening of the pleura (lining of the lung). The thickening is caused by inflammation of the pleura which causes fluid to build up between the lung and the pleura (benign pleural effusion). As the pleura becomes thickened the lung is compressed causing shortness of breath. ARPD may progress.
Common Law Claim For Damages
If you are suffering from asbestosis or ARPD then you can bring a claim at common law. In New South Wales common law claims for asbestosis and ARPD are brought in the Dust Diseases Tribunal (DDT). The DDT is a specialist court that was established in 1989 to hear claims for persons suffering from diseases such as asbestosis and ARPD. The Court has special procedures and rules of evidence to expedite claims. A claim for a person suffering from asbestosis or ARPD usually takes between 6 to 12 months to finalise. Claims can run quicker if necessary. Asbestosis and ARPD claims are subject to the claims resolution process which requires the early exchange of information and compulsory mediation. In other States claims are brought in special lists in the District or Supreme Courts which have procedures to expedite claims including referring them to mediation or court appointed settlement conferences at any early stage.
Most claims are brought against former employers, manufacturers of asbestos products and occupiers of buildings. If your former employer no longer exists, you can still sue if you can determine the workers’ compensation insurer of the company. Asbestosis and ARPD are “divisible” injuries. This means in order to recover all of your damages you must sue in relation to all of your exposure to asbestos. We will sit with you at your home, in hospital or at our offices and take a detailed history in relation to your work and exposure to asbestos to determine who you should sue.
If you are successful in your claim you will be awarded lump sum compensation to compensate you for your pain and suffering, loss of expectation of life, medical and other expenses (if you are not covered by the Dust Diseases Authority- see below), the commercial cost of gratuitous care provided by your friends and family, loss of earnings and superannuation if you were working at the time you experienced symptoms and in some cases the commercial cost of replacing services you provided to others such as young children or a sick or elderly child, spouse or parent. The amount of monies awarded will depend on the circumstances of your claim including your age, the period of time you have suffered disability, your level of disability and your prognosis.
Persons suffering from asbestosis or ARPD can claim provisional damages. This means a claim is brought for the condition you are now suffering from and you reserve the right to bring a further claim in the future if you contract a new asbestos disease such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.
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.
Dust Diseases Authority (DDA)
If you were exposed to asbestos as a worker in New South Wales and you develop asbestosis or asbestos related pleural disease 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.
An application to the DDA is in addition to your common law claim. You can (and most people do) do both, although where there is a DDA award you cannot claim for out of pocket expenses which will be covered by the DDA in your court proceedings.
An application to the DDA is an administrative process. You complete an application form and sign authorities to allow the DDA to obtain access to your medical records. The DDA will arrange for you to undergo a medical examination including an x-ray and lung function test. The results of your examination will be placed before a Medical Panel which consists of 3 respiratory physicians. If the Medical Panel believes you are suffering from asbestosis or ARPD it will request an industrial history be obtained. This process involves you being contacted by an industrial history officer who will take a work history and discuss your exposure to asbestos. You will be then sent an industrial history statement to proof and sign. Your industrial history will be placed before the Medical Panel who will then determine your level of disability. If the Medical Panel certifies you are suffering from asbestosis or ARPD causing a disability the CEO will grant you a fortnightly pension. The pension is not means tested. The amount of your pension will depend on your level of disability. The DDA will continue to monitor your condition and organise for you to be re-examined every 1 to 3 years. If your level of disability increases, then your pension will also increase. It generally takes 6 to 12 weeks for your application to be processed.
In addition to your rights with the DDA, if you die as a result of your dust disease a dependant partner or child has rights to a lump sum payment (the amount of the lump sum depends on the level of dependency) and an ongoing pension. Your estate can also claim funeral expenses up to $9,000.00.
We can assist you to complete a DDA application form and guide you through the application process.