1 MAURICE BLACKBURN LAWYERS ASBESTOS DISEASES
2 02 MAURICE BLACKBURN YOU RE WORTH FIGHTING FOR. If you are hurt, injured, or are facing an unfair situation, you and your family shouldn t have to suffer. That s why we never stand back when bad things happen to good people. At Maurice Blackburn we believe that the law should serve everyone. Who you are or where you re from, it doesn t matter. You re worth fighting for. Maurice Blackburn was born from one man s belief in making a difference to people s lives. Nearly 100 years on these values remain a powerful influence on everything we do. We exist to fight for your rights. For what you deserve. When life isn t fair we ll help you to fight for everything you re entitled to. Because at Maurice Blackburn, we fight for fair.
3 03 ASBESTOS DISEASES Asbestos used to be a commonly used material particularly in buildings built before Sadly, time has revealed it as the cause of a number of serious diseases and the deaths of hundreds of Australians each year. Maurice Blackburn pursues claims for compensation for people whose health has been damaged by asbestos. We have also established a register for people who have been exposed to the material but have not experienced ill effects just in case things change. This brochure provides some information about asbestos, and how Maurice Blackburn can help you if you (or someone close to you) are affected. Where is it? Asbestos was commonly used in the building and construction industry from the 1950 s to the 1980 s. It is strong and heat resistant which is why it was used in more than 3,000 asbestos products. Most Australian buildings built before 1985 contain asbestos, which means most people have had contact with it without being aware of it. Asbestos can still be found in homes built throughout the 1950 s, 1960 s, 1970 s and 1980 s, in public buildings including hospitals, schools, libraries, office blocks and factories. Some common uses or products which contained asbestos included: cement sheeting for walls cement corrugated sheeting for roofing acoustic ceilings lagging for insulation pipes, such as sewerage irrigation pipes fireproofing vinyl floor tiles lining behind stoves, heaters and radiators brake and clutch linings, and as spackle in plaster and paints. Who s at risk? People at highest risk of asbestos exposure include those who worked in mining and manufacturing asbestos, but also those involved in construction of buildings, shipbuilding, railway carriage building and power industries that is, those who used asbestos and asbestos products. Importantly, the families of workers who worked with asbestos have been shown to be at high risk because of asbestos fibres brought home on workers clothing. Trades people, wharf workers and people who worked on ships and office workers are at risk groups as are their families and people who have used asbestos products in their home.
4 04 MAURICE BLACKBURN Asbestos-caused diseases Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer caused by past asbestos exposure. The asbestos exposure need not have been frequent, may have occurred up to 50 years before and may not even be remembered. Mesothelioma can affect the lining of the chest (pleura) and the lining of the stomach (peritoneum). Smoking is not associated with mesothelioma. Compensation is usually paid in cases where mesothelioma is diagnosed. Lung cancer is associated with asbestos exposure. It is also associated with cigarette smoking. Smokers who have also been exposed to asbestos increase their risk of developing lung cancer by at least 50 times, when compared to non-smokers. Where medical tests indicate a past exposure to asbestos and lung cancer has been diagnosed, a successful claim for compensation can be made, even if there is a history of smoking. Asbestosis is scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs which often causes increasing and progressive breathlessness. Asbestosis usually develops following significant exposure to asbestos dust and fibres. Compensation is generally payable after asbestosis is diagnosed. The amount of the compensation depends upon the severity of the asbestosis. Asbestos related pleural disease or ARPD is when fibrous scar often with calcium forms on the outer surface of the lung. It usually does not cause any symptoms, and is only noticed on x-rays, as the calcium in the plaques can be seen. It does not lead to any other disease, and it is mainly useful as an indicator of asbestos exposure. Lung Function Testing is usually normal. Very rarely it can be very extensive, encase the lung and restrict breathing. Pleural plaques are markings on the lining of the lung which act as indicators of past asbestos exposure. Pleural plaques do not usually produce symptoms. For this reason, Australian courts have not awarded compensation for pleural plaques alone, unless there is evidence that they are the cause of some symptoms. A small amount of compensation is payable in England for pleural plaques, if the asbestos exposure occurred there. Who can make a claim? If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, your first priority must be to take care of your health. However, financial compensation may relieve some of the burden for you and your family. Our professional team understands the impact of a life threatening illness, and will work with you to minimise inconvenience and stress. You may be legally entitled to claim compensation if you are suffering from: asbestosis lung cancer asbestos related pleural disease pleural mesothelioma peritoneal mesothelioma pericardial mesothelioma, or laryngeal cancer.
5 05 ASBESTOS DISEASES You can claim even if you: left the employment where the exposure occurred were exposed to asbestos 50 years ago, or more had an employer who has since gone out of business were exposed to asbestos with different employers were self-employed or a contractor were not exposed to asbestos at work (but elsewhere) were exposed to asbestos in the UK or USA are not sure where your exposure to asbestos occurred, and smoked cigarettes. We understand that asbestos related illness already causes a great deal of emotional strain on you and your family, and there can be additional physical difficulties related to the illness. That is why we will visit you free of charge and without obligation, at home or in hospital, to discuss your entitlements and the claims process and to help work out if this is a path for you. Can my family bring a claim? If your family can show they were financially dependent on your earnings, they could bring a claim for the loss of financial dependency. In Australia, depending on which state you reside and where you were exposed to asbestos you may have a common law or statutory law available to you and your family. Common law compensation In a common law compensation claim you need to prove that: your employer and/or the manufacturer of the asbestos products to which you were exposed owed you a duty of care they were negligent in exposing you to asbestos dust and fibre because of that negligence you have been injured because of that injury you have suffered damage. The claim begins with a formal court document. Most Australian states and the ACT are able to speed up the hearing of asbestos claims. New South Wales has a dedicated tribunal called the Dust Diseases Tribunal to deal with these types of claims. Your lawyer will present a medical report from your treating doctor to confirm your condition to speed up your claim. Most asbestos claims are settled at a pretrial conference or mediation. If it cannot be resolved, it will proceed to a hearing or trial. At the hearing or trial, your lawyer will need to prove duty of care, negligence, injury and damage as described above. However, only you can claim for pain and suffering. For this reason, it is best to get legal advice and act as soon as possible. Provided that you initiate the claim in your lifetime, it will continue even if you die before it is finalised.
6 06 MAURICE BLACKBURN Statutory benefits Some states have statutory compensation schemes for people with asbestos related diseases. Ask your lawyer whether you qualify for any of these schemes. New South Wales In New South Wales, the relevant Act is the Workers Compensation (Dust Diseases) Act 1942 (NSW). You can make a claim to the Dust Diseases Board if you can show that: at all relevant times you were a worker and employed in New South Wales within the meaning of the Act you have been exposed to offending dust such as asbestos dust, and you have contracted a disease named in the Act. If you meet these criteria you are entitled to weekly compensation payments or a pension. You are also entitled to relevant hospital, medicines and related expenses. Words could not express my sincere appreciation for the remarkable outcome of our case. Your friendly and professional approach through the long journey will always be remebered with deep gratitude. Maurice Blackburn client
8 08 MAURICE BLACKBURN This entitlement continues through your lifetime. If you die from the asbestos-related disease, your dependants at the time you made the claim become eligible to claim for lump sum and weekly compensation. You are not required to prove fault. Your lawyer will submit the application. The Dust Diseases Board will then contact you. See or talk with your lawyer. Victoria In Victoria, the relevant Act is the Accident Compensation Act 1985 (Vic). You have entitlements if you were exposed to asbestos in the course of your employment after 31 August 1985 and this exposure has caused you to suffer or illness. If you were working at the time of your diagnosis and you die because of your asbestos-related disease, your dependents may also have entitlements. Your lawyer will discuss this with you and your family. Queensland In Queensland, the relevant Act is the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld). Your entitlement to claim damages begins on the date you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness. Generally, people who were exposed in the workplace are entitled to workers compensation benefits. Any claim for these benefits must be made within six months of being diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness. You do not have to prove fault by your employer to qualify. However, you must prove you were exposed to asbestos in the workplace for which the workers compensation insurer is liable. It doesn t matter if you are retired or still working. Your lawyer will advise you whether you qualify for these benefits and how much you can expect to receive. Generally, workers compensation benefits for serious asbestos-related illnesses are paid in a series of lump sums. Western Australia In Western Australia, you may have entitlements under the Workers Compensation & Injury Management Act 1981 (WA). Please discuss this with your lawyer. Tasmania The Asbestos Related Disease (Occupational Exposure) Compensation Act 2011 governs the occupational exposures in Tasmania. Workers who develop asbestos-related diseases should discuss with a lawyer. Commonwealth statutory entitlements Some current and former Commonwealth Government employees may also be able to apply for statutory benefits. They need to have been exposed to asbestos during the course of this employment or service. Please discuss with your lawyer. Does it matter where in Australia I was exposed to asbestos? Usually the law of the state where you were exposed to asbestos will govern your claim. Different Australian states have different compensation schemes and entitlements. Depending on where you were exposed, you may have entitlements to common law damages, pensions and/or statutorybenefits. It may be that you have entitlements in competing jurisdictions. If you were exposed to asbestos in two or more states in Australia your lawyer will advise you as to where you should bring your claim to maximise your compensation entitlements.
9 09 ASBESTOS DISEASES Recent Awards Maurice Blackburn has a lot of experience pursuing claims like this and a few are outlined below. Asbestos compensation claims are usually based in negligence. The basis of a claim is that an employer, occupier of premises or manufacturer of asbestos products failed to warn or take steps to protect you against the known risk of asbestos related diseases. Eric King: Maurice Blackburn secures historic victory in the highest Australian award for pain and suffering compensation After repairing machines for James Hardie in Perth in 1972, Mr Eric King was exposed to asbestos dust which caused his mesothelioma. The 63-year-old mesothelioma sufferer, after enduring the appeals courts for eight months, was finally awarded $1.15 million in compensation when James Hardie was deemed accountable. This is the highest awarded for pain and suffering compensation and represents a very significant increase on awards and settlements. Mario In NSW Mario worked for the Urban Transit Authority at the Chullora Bus Depot from late 1970s until While employed, Mario was exposed to asbestos from gaskets in the engines of buses, and from asbestos pipe insulation. He was also exposed to asbestos when the antiquated asbestos roof was removed in The asbestos removalists stripped the roof, meanwhile below them, UTA employees continued working unprotected from falling asbestos dust. As a result of Mario s exposure he developed a particularly severe form of mesothelioma which spread to his spine. Mario was awarded $1.3m in compensation. Rob Rob, aged 75, was exposed to asbestos as a deckhand in the Navy. He was later again exposed to asbestos while working as a self-employed carpenter. Rob was diagnosed with mesothelioma and commenced a claim against the Navy and the manufacturer of asbestos products. Four months later, Rob achieved a settlement of $330,000. Additionally, his wife was able to bring a claim for Statutory Compensation and received a further $447,000 when Rob sadly passed away. Margaret Margaret, aged 76 and has resided in Victoria all her life, never worked with asbestos but her husband worked as a fitter and turner and carried home asbestos on his overalls. Each week, she shook out and washed the overalls and inhaled asbestos dust. Margaret was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She made a claim against the manufacturer of the asbestos products her husband used and received $500,000 in compensation.
10 10 MAURICE BLACKBURN Frank Frank worked with asbestos blankets while working as a boilermaker and pipefitter in NSW. He also removed asbestos lagging to repair pipework. Frank had worked for numerous employers, many of whom were no longer in business when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Although Frank also smoked cigarettes for 30 years he achieved a settlement of $300,000. Peter Peter worked in the power industry insulating pipes and boilers with asbestos. He was heavily exposed to asbestos dust on a daily basis. Peter developed increasing asbestosis and recovered damages of $200,000. Peter settled this on a provisional basis which leaves his rights open for the future. Garry Earlier in his career, Garry, aged 60, worked in the power industry insulating pipes and boilers with asbestos in SA. He was heavily exposed to asbestos dust on a daily basis and later, after retiring, he developed mesothelioma. He was able to recover damages of $250,000. What s involved in making a claim? We try to make it as straightforward as possible for you but we can t do it without your involvement. As your lawyers, our job is to work through medical and legal issues and worry about how best to put your claim. At Maurice Blackburn, we re experienced with the fact that asbestos-related claims are complicated but our experience means less involvement for you and the quickest possible resolution. There are a number of things you will need to do, or provide, to help us make a claim for you: Speak to one of our lawyers about your work and, what you know about your asbestos exposure. This can take place in your home, in hospital or our office and usually takes about an hour. Provide us with your authority to access medical records and reports. Provide all documentation relevant to the claim this can include items relevant to your work and pay and so on. Answer a series of written questions with our assistance. Provide instructions (via telephone) as the matter progresses for example, regarding any offers made. While those who currently provide your medical care will be important, a necessary and important part of the process will be visiting independent doctors for medicolegal opinions and reports to support your claim. The doctors will ask you questions and review the tests or treatment already performed.
11 11 ASBESTOS DISEASES If you prefer help from people close to you and who you trust particularly if you are in ill health you can give someone your Power of Attorney to run the claim and make decisions on your behalf. We can help you with further information about how that works if you need it. How much compensation? It is impossible to provide that information without details specific to your claim. However, where there is good evidence to support your claim, it is likely that you could win compensation between tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Provisional damages In most Australian states, victims of asbestos related diseases are able to bring a claim for a benign asbestos related condition such as asbestosis or asbestos related pleural disease. In the unlikely circumstances that they develop a malignant asbestos related disease such as mesothelioma, they are able to bring a further claim. How long will it take? The average time-frame for an asbestos malignancy claim is between three and six months, from the time you instruct us to proceed until the claim is settled. Claims can proceed faster where there is medical evidence that you are very unwell. Some claims are resolved within weeks. How much will the legal fees be? Your first consultation is free and without obligation. If you decide to proceed, and we believe you have a viable claim, Maurice Blackburn will act on a No win No fee basis. This means that Maurice Blackburn would fund your case, and if you lose, you will not be charged our professional fees. Maurice Blackburn s National Asbestos Register The national asbestos register has been set up for those that have been exposed to asbestos, but remain healthy. The Register is a database established and maintained by Maurice Blackburn. It is a free service that enables people to make a formal record of their asbestos exposure should the information be required in the future. Any contact or exposure to asbestos puts you at risk of developing respiratory disease or cancer. Whether the exposure was recent, or even if it occurred many years ago, the risk of developing a life-threatening illness remains. We hope it never happens to you. Listing the details of your asbestos exposure on Maurice Blackburn s National Asbestos Register will assist your future claims for compensation. What is the National Asbestos Register? The National Asbestos Register is a database established and maintained by Maurice Blackburn. It is a free service that enables people to make a formal record of their asbestos exposure should the information be required in the future. Information stored on the National Asbestos Register can assist you to recall relevant information and provides a starting point for a claim if it s needed. Of course, some people never need to recall the information because not everyone develops an asbestos related disease after exposure. There is the added benefit of the large numbers of people registering because the information can help others by identifying locations or ways people have been
12 12 MAURICE BLACKBURN exposed, and dates of the existence of businesses, plants or mines. It may help identify a source of exposure that is missing from someone s history and that might help them make a claim. What information do I need? The more information and detail, the better. Try to provide as much information as possible for example: The approximate date(s) of exposure. For example: 2 days January 2002 or 1964 to 1967 and 1971 to The name(s) of employer(s). That is if the exposure occurred at work. The exposure could have occurred at home or elsewhere. How the exposure occurred. For example: Removing lagging from pipes or Removing AC sheet during bathroom renovations. Where the exposure occurred. For example: Boiler room, GMH, Dandenong or Home, 27 Alexander St, Mitcham. Describe the asbestos product(s) exposed to. For example: Corrugated roofing, patterned AC sheet behind tiles lagging. If there were any labels on the products, advise what they said, such as JH or Wunderlich. What happens after registration? We will confirm your registration with a letter and provide you with some general information about claiming for damages for asbestos related diseases. We will then keep you up to date with compensation issues and any changes to the law as they apply to asbestos claims and write to you a couple of times each year with general asbestos updates. No obligation Registration does not make you our client and you have no obligation to become one in the future. We can provide you with further free advice or information via one of our specialist asbestos lawyers if you want, or need it. You don t have to let us know if your details change for example, your contact details or the condition of your health but we hope you do so we can keep you up to date about asbestos related issues. If you do change your address and we can t update them, your details will eventually be removed from the database. How do I register? Simply fill in the short, easy form overleaf or visit the Asbestos Diseases page on our web site: Alternatively, ring us to speak with one of our asbestos specialists. Freecall Protecting your rights is our business At Maurice Blackburn, we are committed to getting a fair outcome for our clients so you can get on with your life without disadvantage. Our expert Asbestos lawyers provide a free first consultation and will fight to ensure you receive the best possible outcome, because we recognise that the compensation you receive is vital to ensuring quality of life for you and your family. If you would like to make an appointment please call From the very beginning, we fought for the rights of ordinary people. We continue this tradition today.
13 MAURICE BLACKBURN NATIONAL ASBESTOS REGISTER Complete this form to register your asbestos exposure or register online at: Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss Surname Given names Date of birth Number Street Suburb Postcode State address Telephone Home Mobile Please tick where you were exposed to asbestos Home (please describe) Work (see below) Other (please describe) If exposed at work, please complete table below Years of exposure eg: Name of employer eg: Gas & Fuel Job title eg: Plumber Sites exposed eg: Collins/Wales House
14 Exposure description eg: Removing lagging In which state or country were you exposed? Have you been diagnosed with an asbestos disease? If Yes, please indicate which disease: Mesothelioma Lung cancer Asbestosis Pleural plaques Other (please name) If possible, provide the names of two people who can confirm your exposure: 1 2 How did you find out about the Maurice Blackburn Asbestos Register? Newspaper Union Friend General reputation Other (please name) Send completed form by mail or fax to: Maurice Blackburn Level 10, 456 Lonsdale Street Melbourne VIC 3000 f (03)
15 CONTACT US If you are considering legal action or want to fight for your rights, get in touch and we can assess what you need or arrange for a meeting with one of our lawyers. For most practice areas, your first consultation is free (business hours) mauriceblackburn.com.au Asbestos Diseases Work Related Injuries Road Accident Injuries Medical Negligence Superannuation & Insurance Claims Public Liability Faulty Products Comcare Will Disputes Employment & Industrial Law Class Actions Social Justice You are welcome to drop into one of our offices that is local to you: Victorian Offices (03) Melbourne Dandenong Frankston Geelong Greensborough Mildura Reservoir Ringwood Sunshine Traralgon Wangaratta Queensland Offices (07) Brisbane Browns Plains Caboolture Cairns Gold Coast Ipswich Mackay Rockhampton Strathpine Sunshine Coast Toowoomba Townsville NSW Offices (02) Sydney Parramatta Western Australia Office (08) Perth ACT Office (02) Canberra Call us or visit the website for more details.
16 Maurice Blackburn is a leading Australian law firm certified to the international ISO 9001:2008 quality standard. Information correct at 1 April This brochure is a general guide to dealing with Asbestos Diseases claims and is not a substitute for professional advice in this area. Maurice Blackburn is proud to be carbon neutral (see our website for details). This brochure is printed on ecostar Silk. Made with 100% certified post consumer waste fibre, it is produced with a carbon neutral manufacturing process and has been made in a facility that operates under the ISO Environmental Management System. MB4184_NATASB 04/14