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If you have been exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, pleural plaques or another asbestos-related disease, you may be able to claim compensation.
See below to understand more about making an Asbestos claim.
How do I know if I am eligible to make an asbestos claim?
There are various legal avenues available to sufferers of asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. Generally, compensation claims are made through the courts under common law, when, among other things, it can be proven that asbestos exposure was the result of negligence by another party.
I believe I have an asbestos claim, what should I do next?
It is important that you contact an asbestos lawyer in Western Australia with experience in asbestos claims and litigation as soon as you can to make sure your interests are looked after.
A Slater and Gordon specialist asbestos lawyer in Western Australia will be able to advise you about your entitlements. Initial advice is free with no obligation and your lawyer can come to you at home or hospital.
Slater and Gordon's No Win - No Fee scheme is available for asbestos-related claims. The scheme is designed to help those whose financial circumstances might otherwise deny them access to legal representation but at the same time have a viable asbestos claim.
Who can make a claim for asbestos compensation?
Asbestos exposure alone is not enough to provide a basis for a successful asbestos claim. Before you can make an asbestos claim you must have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma or asbestosis.
If you have an asbestos-related disease it is possible you can make an asbestos claim even if:
- you have since left that employment where the asbestos exposure occurred
- your asbestos exposure occurred many decades ago
- you have worked for many employers
- you were self-employed or a contractor
- your employer went out of business years ago
- you were a heavy smoker
- you are not sure where or how your asbestos exposure occurred
- your exposure occurred interstate or overseas
Am I still eligible to make a claim even if a relative has died from an asbestos related disease?
Yes. If your partner or a family member dies as a result of an asbestos-related injury, an asbestos claim for compensation may still be available to the estate or the dependants of the deceased. The asbestos claim may be limited to the financial consequences of the death.
What can I claim compensation for?
In our court system, you can claim lump sum compensation (known as 'damages') if you have been injured as the result of the fault, or 'negligence', of someone else.
Generally you can claim:
- any past medical and other expenses incurred as a result of the treatment of your condition
- future medical expenses
- lost earnings up to the date of trial or settlement and for the rest of your working life
- lost earning capacity
- the commercial cost of assistance around the home, in the garden and nursing care (even if that assistance is being provided voluntarily by relatives and friends)
- the cost of changes to your house or the purchase or rental of special equipment
- a payment for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life
- a payment for any loss in life expectation or reduced life expectancy
Can I claim for past and future medical expenses?
Generally, one component of your asbestos claim will be past and future medical expenses connected with your asbestos-related disease.
Any medical expenses incurred up to the date of the resolution of your asbestos claim that have been paid by Medicare will have to be repaid out of any compensation received.
If you are a member of a private health fund, you may also have an obligation to refund monies paid by your private health insurer connected with the treatment of your asbestos- related disease. It is also possible that your private health insurer will restrict future benefits after compensation has been received.
Will an asbestos claim for compensation affect my pension?
Receiving lump sum compensation can have an effect on payments from the Department of Social Security (DSS). Generally, your pension or other benefit will only be affected if you are receiving a DSS benefit and make a claim for lost earnings or a loss of your earning capacity.
You (or your partner) may be precluded from receiving social security payments for a period of time known as the ‘preclusion period’. The length of the preclusion period depends on the size of the compensation amount awarded.
What is involved in claiming compensation for exposure to asbestos?
To make an asbestos claim for compensation you must prove that you have a medical condition caused by exposure to asbestos. This normally involves obtaining a report from your treating doctors. Your asbestos lawyer may also need to get a report from an independent specialist about your asbestos-related disease.
You must also establish when, where and how you were exposed to asbestos. Once our asbestos lawyers have identified where and how you were exposed to asbestos, we will have the name(s) of potential organisation(s) to bring your asbestos claim against. The organisation(s) against whom a claim is brought are called Defendants.
Will I need to go to court for my asbestos claim?
The vast majority of court actions for asbestos-related illnesses settle before trial.
If you want to avoid going to court, Slater and Gordon's asbestos lawyers will of course try to negotiate a settlement for you, however we are unable to guarantee that your asbestos claim will not proceed to trial. And, of course, some people want their case to go to trial.
If it becomes necessary for you to go to court, Slater and Gordon's asbestos lawyers will provide you with information about how the court system works and what you can expect.
How much will it cost me to make an asbestos claim ?
Once it is established that you have a viable claim for damages, Slater and Gordon's asbestos lawyers will handle your asbestos claim on a No Win - No Fee™ basis. This means that you are only liable to Slater and Gordon for the costs incurred in your asbestos claim, if your claim is successful.
The No Win - No Fee™, Fee and Retainer Agreement explains fully the terms and conditions, including how legal costs are calculated.
Your legal costs are largely determined by the amount of time and work required to resolve your claim.
How long will my asbestos claim take to finalise?
Usually, claims involving asbestos-caused cancers such as malignant mesothelioma take only months to resolve. If need be, an asbestos claim can be resolved within weeks or days - for those involving malignant mesothelioma. Claims for non-malignant asbestos-related conditions can take a little longer.
What about workers' compensation?
For more than a century, states, territories and the Commonwealth of Australia have maintained workers' compensation schemes. These no-fault, statutory compensation schemes provide financial benefits to employees injured in the course of employment.
Many of Australia's workers’ compensation schemes offer some compensation benefits to sufferers of asbestos-related disease and/or their families.
Although each scheme has the same purpose, there are substantial differences in details, including what benefits are offered, who is eligible to claim, how claims should be made and whether claims can be made in addition to, or instead of, court action for lump sum compensation.
Some asbestos claims may depend on such things as dates of exposure to asbestos and some schemes also support medical surveillance of asbestos-exposed workers.
Your asbestos lawyer at Slater and Gordon will be able to advise you whether you are eligible for workers’ compensation and, if so, what benefits are available to you.
What happens if the asbestos claim goes to court?
Once court proceedings have begun, your rights to compensation for pain and suffering are protected for the benefit of your estate. Your asbestos lawyer at Slater and Gordon will do everything necessary to prepare your asbestos claim and ensure that you are well informed of:
- relevant court processes and their duration
- all aspects of legal costs
- your rights and entitlements
Our asbestos lawyers will not take any significant steps in your asbestos claim, such as make or accept an offer of settlement, without your specific instructions. During your asbestos claim it is important that you or a loved one notify us if there is any sudden deterioration in your health.
Making an additional claim
If you have superannuation and sustain an injury, you may be able to access a lump sum payment through your policy. Many people are unaware that their superannuation policy provides additional benefits. An experienced superannuation and insurance lawyer will assist you in identifying whether such benefits exist in your policy and submit an application on your behalf. If your application is rejected, your lawyer will advise you of the process for challenging the decision.
In addition, you may have a personal insurance policy, such as life insurance, income protection insurance, sickness and accident insurance, which may include provisions for compensation should you be injured in an accident.
These benefits may be available in addition to other forms of compensation and benefits. You should seek legal advice from a Slater and Gordon lawyer in our superannuation and insurance department regarding your entitlement to claim compensation.