What is asbestos and where is it found?
Asbestos is a term used for a group of naturally occurring minerals, mined in Australia and around the world, perhaps most notoriously at Wittenoom in Western Australia.
Once mined, asbestos was mixed with other materials and turned into building and insulation products and used widely throughout Australia. Asbestos was very popular in Australia, which sadly means that we have one of the highest rates of asbestos related disease in the world.
Asbestos was used in a variety of common products including:
- Insulation (lagging) on pipes and beams
- A/C sheeting
- Flues and pipes
- Linings for brakes and clutches
- Millboard and products for switchboard backing
- Some forms of flooring
Asbestos was used in building products in Australia until the 1980s, and not completely banned until 2003.
When asbestos containing products are cut, drilled, or handled in any way that causes dust, it is extremely dangerous. Asbestos fibres are inhaled and can lodge in the lung, causing a range of asbestos related conditions later in life.
What conditions are caused by asbestos?
Asbestos causes a number of conditions. The most common ones are:
Pleural plaques – Pleural plaques are benign areas of scar tissue on the lining of the lung. They are markers of past asbestos exposure. Pleural plaques generally do not cause symptoms, and therefore; in most cases, are not compensable. However, in extreme cases when plaques cause pain and/or disability, a compensation claim may be made.
Asbestos related pleural disease (ARPD) – ARPD is a broad term used for abnormalities which occur on the lining of the lung, called the pleura. When these abnormalities cause shortness of breath or pain, compensation can be claimed.
Asbestosis – Asbestosis is a scarring (fibrosis) of the lung which can occur following heavy exposure to asbestos. Asbestosis often causes symptoms such as: increasing shortness of breath, cough, lung infections. These symptoms vary in severity from person to person.
Lung cancer – Lung cancer is a general term for a malignant tumour of the lung. Lung cancer has multiple causes, the most common of these being cigarette smoking. However, heavy exposures to asbestos can also cause lung cancer. People who have sustained exposure to asbestos as well as cigarette smoke are at a significantly increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Mesothelioma – Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer of the lining of the lung (pleura) or abdomen (peritoneum). The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos. Sadly, mesothelioma is often associated with a short prognosis.
We understand that if you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you are searching for a lawyer who understands you are not just a statistic.
An experienced mesothelioma lawyer understands the medical context, the personal impact of course all of the legal ramifications of a diagnosis.
Asbestos claims can be tricky, so it is essential that you get the right advice from experts. Our team have handled thousands of asbestos cases in their careers.
We assist many clients who are unsure if their asbestos claim is valid for a variety of reasons.
Perhaps you don’t know when you were exposed, or consider your exposure to be too trivial, too brief or too long ago. Maybe you don’t work for the employer or company where you were exposed anymore, or have worked in numerous places where your exposure to asbestos might have occurred.
Whatever your circumstances, our lawyers can assist you investigate your claim.
I have been exposed to asbestos. What should I do?
It is important to remember that most people who are exposed to asbestos do not develop an asbestos-related disease, but it is understandable to be concerned.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, you should make your treating doctor aware of your exposure, and have regular check-ups.
It’s also a good idea to keep a record of your asbestos exposure. If you do develop an asbestos related condition in the future and decide to make a claim for compensation, it is useful to have some details of your past exposure.
You can register your exposure with Gordon Legal here. Registering is cost and obligation free and an easy way to know your exposure has been recorded.
I have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease. What do I do now?
If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, it is important to seek legal advice and to do it quickly. Sadly, some asbestos diseases are associated with a short prognosis.
In a lot of cases, pain and suffering damages are the largest component of a compensation claim. Provided your case is issued within your lifetime, your entitlement to pain and suffering damages is protected for the benefit of those left behind.
To protect your case, your lawyer needs to:
- Talk to you about your exposure history
- Figure out who the right defendants are in your case
- Issue proceedings to ensure your case is protected.
The sooner you get advice, the better.
In addition to the above, different states have different time limits in which to bring claims. This is a very specialised area of the law. It is critical you obtain advice from a lawyer with extensive experience in the area.
My employer has gone out of business. Can I still make a claim?
In most cases, yes.
If your employer is deregistered, but there is evidence that they held workers’ compensation insurance at the time you worked for them, your lawyer will be able to make an application to the court to proceed against your former employer.
It will also be important for your lawyer to consider whether other parties are at fault in causing your injury, such as manufacturers of asbestos products or occupiers of sites that you worked at.
I was exposed in the course of performing domestic renovations. Can I make a claim?
In most cases, yes.
An experienced asbestos lawyer will hear your story, and ask you questions about the products you used. Then, based on experience and knowledge, they will give you advice about a claim against an asbestos manufacturer, even if you are not sure whose products you used.
I was exposed in multiple places. How do I know where to bring my claim?
Different states and different countries (called jurisdictions) have differing compensation schemes and entitlements. If you have been exposed in multiple places, you may have rights in a number of jurisdictions. It essential to get advice about how to best pursue your compensation entitlements. An experienced asbestos lawyer will listen to your story, weigh up your options and provide you with advice about what will be most advantageous for you.
How long will an asbestos compensation claim take?
This depends on what your doctors say about your condition. Some claims can be completed in a matter of weeks, when there is medical evidence to say this is necessary.
At Gordon Legal, we understand that you want the compensation process to be completed quickly and efficiently. Our experts will talk to you about what to expect in your individual circumstances.
Are there other legal matters I should think about, other than compensation?
If you are facing a life-threatening illness (or even if you aren’t) it is important to make sure you have a valid will and power of attorney documents in place that reflect your wishes.
You may also be entitled to access a personal insurance policy or a Total Permanent Disability policy, which is often attached to your superannuation fund.
You may also have other legal matters. When we meet with you, we will talk to you about your legal concerns, come up with a plan to make sure you have access to the best specialist lawyers for your legal needs.
If you would like to speak to one of our friendly staff, get in touch today on 1800 21 22 23