Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial lining, a thin layer of tissue that covers many organs.
Mesothelioma most commonly occurs in the lining of the lung (known as a pleural mesothelioma), although also occurs in the peritoneum and very rarely around other organs.
The only known cause of mesothelioma in Australia is exposure to asbestos. Up until the mid 1980’s asbestos was used in an extremely wide variety of products. People in many industries (everything from brewers to waterside workers) were routinely exposed to asbestos, often without being aware. People can contract mesothelioma from small exposures to asbestos such as home renovations involving fibro sheets.
If you have contracted mesothelioma you may have right to bring a claim at common law against a former employer, manufacturer of asbestos products or occupier of a building where you were exposed to asbestos.
It is important you consult a lawyer as soon as possible as court proceedings must be filed in your lifetime to ensure your full entitlement to damages.
Individuals who were exposed to asbestos in New South Wales (even if they no longer reside there) may be entitled to additional benefits from the Dust Diseases Authority.
Compensation for mesothelioma
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 mesothelioma. In New South Wales, claims are brought in the Dust Diseases Tribunal (DDT), which is a specialist court that was established in 1989 to hear claims for persons suffering from diseases such as mesothelioma. 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.
You do not need to sue in relation to all of your exposure to asbestos as long as the exposure you sue on is not trivial. You are entitled to damages, even if part of your exposure occurred overseas. 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.
The court will do everything possible to finish your mesothelioma claim in your lifetime. However, if you do die before your claim is finalised then (provided the claim was filed in court in your lifetime) your estate can continue your claim. More limited claims can be commenced after a person has died.
In mesothelioma 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 mesothelioma usually takes between 3 to 6 months to finalise. Claims can run quicker if necessary and have on occasions been completed in as little as a few days. All courts that deal with mesothelioma claims have special processes and procedures that promote early settlement, and the quick resolution of mesothelioma matters.
How much are claims worth?
- If you are successful in your claim you will be awarded lump sum payout. The lump sum is comprised of various “heads of damage”. Heads of damage for which people with mesothelioma are typically compensated include:
- damages for pain and suffering and loss of expectation of life;
- an amount for the commercial cost of care provided by your friends and family,
- 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.
- loss of earnings and superannuation if the disease stopped you working.
Most mesothelioma claims resolve for between $350,000 and $500,000 clear in your hand (after all costs and disbursements are paid) plus any amounts for medical expenses, economic loss and replacement services.
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 mesothelioma 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 mesothelioma in order to make an application.
An application to the DDA is in addition to your common law claim for damages. You can (and most people do) do both.
An application to the DDA is an administrative process. If your application is approved the CEO will grant you a fortnightly pension. The pension is not means tested. Your pension will be backdated to the date when the disease developed. It generally takes 4 to 6 weeks for your application to be processed. Once approved the DDA will pay all of your related expenses and refund any expenses paid by you in the past.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone us on 020 8880 0500 (Sydney) or (03) 9021 7260 (Melbourne) or complete the form below. to arrange your free case assessment.
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.
We maintain relationships with lawyers in many countries which enables us to effectively represent overseas based clients.
Exposure to asbestos can have occurred in a wide variety of settings – both at work and outside work. We are expert at working with a client to identify possible periods of exposure, and then locating witnesses and other evidence that can confirm and corroborate exposure.
In order to bring a claim you must be able to identify exposure to asbestos that caused or contributed to the mesothelioma. On many occasions we have been able to locate and prove exposure to asbestos that caused disease notwithstanding the client’s initial instructions being that they could not recall any exposure.
For more information see our article Working out where you were exposed to asbestos