Asbestos was a commonly used material in a multitude of building/construction work applications from the 1950s through to the 1980s. Asbestos is a strong, resilient and very heat resistant material and it may still be found in many Australian homes and public buildings including hospitals, schools, offices and factories.
Exposure to asbestos has been shown to be responsible for a number of serious diseases and the deaths of many Australians each year. People most at risk of asbestos exposure include those who have worked in mining and manufacturing of asbestos and those involved in the construction of buildings, in ship building, in power industries and in any other work environments in which asbestos products have been used.
Exposure to asbestos fibres, even for a short duration, has the potential to cause a number of potentially terminal diseases including:
A terminal cancer caused by past asbestos exposure (affecting the lining of the chest and/or stomach)
It should be notedthat smokers whohave also been exposed to asbestos increase their risk of contracting lung cancer by 50 times as compared to non smokers. Smoking does not preclude a claim for asbestos compensation.
A scarring of the lungs which causes progressive breathlessness
Markings on the lining of the lungs which act as indicators of past asbestos exposure;
May have an association with heavy asbestos exposure.
Upon being diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, medical advice and treatment needs to be followed. A sufferer of asbestos related disease may also wish to consider compensation to which he or she may be entitled.
Asbestos compensation claims are usually based in negligence. That is, in most cases the basis of a claim is that an employer, occupier of premises or manufacturer of asbestos products failed to warn or take precautionary steps to protect against the known risk of asbestos related diseases.
Asbestos disease sufferers should seek specialist legal advice with a view to assisting in optimising any potential award of compensation. A claim against a negligent party may be made by the family of an asbestos disease sufferer if it can be shown that the family is financially dependent on the sufferer. The asbestos disease sufferer may claim for personal pain and suffering, medical expenses and past and future loss of earning
Sound management of an asbestos disease claim should be underpinned by specialist knowledge of both legal and medical issues by the lawyer representing the client. In South Australia victims of asbestos related diseases may lodge a claim for benign conditions such as asbestosis or pleural disease. Should these conditions later develop into a malignant disease such as mesothelioma, further claims may be made.
Asbestos disease sufferers may qualify for legal work to be done on their behalf on a contingency (No-Win-No-Fee) basis.