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Silicosis & other silica induced diseases

Silicosis & other silica induced diseases

Crystalline silica (silica) is found in a variety of products including manufactured stone products (often used in kitchen, laundry and bathroom benchtops’) as well as natural stone (particularly sandstone), concrete and mortar.
When drilled, cut, sawn or otherwise worked with silica dust is generated into the air and often inhaled.
Inhalation of silica dust can cause a number of different conditions including:
  • acute silicosis;
  • accelerated and chronic silicosis;
  • progressive massive fibrosis (complicated silicosis);
  • silica induced lung cancer; and
  • other conditions including scleroderma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and damage to the kidneys.

The risk of disease from silica disease has been known for many decades.  Workers who develop disease from silica may be entitled to obtain compensation.  Segelov Taylor Lawyers are expert in bringing claims for silcia disease and can provide advice and representation.  We offer an obligation free case assessment service.

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About Silicosis

Silicosis is a incurable lung disease cased by inhalation of crystalline silica dust. It involves inflammation and the development of scarring of the lungs. Silicosis is generally a progressive condition and may lead to respiratory failure. There are three clinical kinds of silicosis – acute silicosis, accelerated silicosis and chronic silicosis.

Acute silicosis

Acute silicosis can develop after short-term exposure (weeks or months) to very high levels of silica dust and leads to the rapid onset of symptoms and potential health complications. Acute silicosis was historically very rare. However, there has been an increase in the incidence of acute silicosis arising from work with engineered on manufactured stone products. Those products can contain up to, and in excess of 90% crystalline silica. Acute silicosis involves severe inflammation and an outpouring of protein into the lungs which can fill with fluid. This in turn leads to severe shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels.

Accelerated silicosis

Accelerated silicosis may develop within 3-10 years of first exposure to silica dust. Like acute silicosis, accelerated silicosis was historically rare. However the increased use of engineered stone has lead to an increase in incidents of accelerated silicosis. In accelerated silicosis, swelling in the lungs and symptoms occur faster than in chronic silicosis. Like chronic silicosis, lesions known as silicotic nodules develop which if they coalesce can become progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). Symptoms include shortness of breath which overtime may lead to a need for support with oxygen.

Chronic silicosis

Chronic silicosis may develop after many years (10-40) of exposure to silica. Historically chronic silicosis was the most common form of the disease, particularly in places like Sydney among jack pick operators who drilled sandstone. Chronic silicosis can become progressive massive fibrosis. In chronic silicosis, the silica dust causes areas of swelling in the lungs and chest lymph nodes, which leads to shortness of breath.

Progressive Massive Fibrosis

Chronic and accelerated silicosis can progress to become progressive massive fibrosis (also known as PMF). PMF occurs when the silicotic nodules in the lung coalesce. PMF can also occur as a result of exposure to other dusts. PMF involves severe shortness of breath and often requires oxygen support. The symptoms of PMF will generally deteriorate and often lead to respiratory failure and death.

Silica Induced Lung Cancer

Silcia is a known carcinogen. The inhalation of large amounts of silica dust, or exposure over extended periods can lead to the development of lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer is higher among people who are (or have been) smokers.

Other Silica related diseases

Silica exposure can lead to other conditions including:

  • Scleroderma;
  • chronic bronchitis;
  • emphysema; and
  • kidney damage.

Compensation

The process for claims for silicosis and other silcia induced diseases differs from State to State. Depending on the State,  claims made be brought under workers compensation statutes and/or in court proceedings against employers.  People suffering from silicosis in New South Wales may also make application on the Dust Diseases Authority.  For more information about the DDA, follow this link. People who have developed silicosis are often advised to leave any dusty employment as further exposure will cause their condition to deteriorate.  Even if you do not have a current disability from silicosis, you may be able to claim at common law.  You may also have a claim under a total and permanent disability (TPD) policy through your superannuation if you are forced to leave your job. We act on a full no win no fee basis in all silicosis and silica induced disease claims.  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 silicosis or other silica induced disease usually takes between 4 and 10 months to finalise. Claims can run quicker if necessary.

How much are claims worth?

The value of the claim depends on a variety of factors.  The most significant factors are the level of disability, and the likely progression of the disease.  Other factors, including whether you are still in employment (or if the disease has stopped you working), along with the amount of care you need, and whether you provided care to any dependent will also be relevant.

Common Questions

As the law is different in different states, there is no simple answer to this question. It will depend on where you were exposed to silica. In NSW, 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 normally be commenced in the person’s lifetime.
Your entitlement to bring a claim arises from where you were exposed to silica, 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 silicosis and other dust diseases. We maintain relationships with lawyers in many countries which enables us to effectively represent overseas based clients.

We act on a “no win/no fee” basis in all silica 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 proceedings and in order to provide you advice on the merits of your claim.  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.

The Dust Diseases Authority (the DDA) is a NSW government body.

If you were exposed to asbestos as a worker in New South Wales and you develop a dust related condition you can apply to the DDA for compensation.  An application to the DDA is in addition to your common law claim for damages.  You can (and most people do) do both.

If your claim is accepted you will have a right to  a pension and to have all your medical, hospital, pharmaceutical, nursing and nursing aids and equipment costs associated with he asbestos disease 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 condition, although any exposure to asbestos that occurred outside of New South Wales may lead to a reduction in the amounts payable.

For more information about the DDA, follow this link.

Book a Free Case Assessment

Start the compensation process by arranging a free case assessment.

In the free initial case assessment we will obtain general information and provide preliminary advice on whether we believe you are likely to have a claim for compensation, the value of any claim and our costs in the event you were to instruct us.

The case assessment is usually via phone (we will call you at the arranged time) or by video conference (such as Zoom or Teams).

There is no cost associated with this case assessment, nor any obligation to instruct us in your matter.

Date and Time for Case assessment.
Date and Time for Case assessment.

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