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Dust disease laws could be subject to parliamentary reforms

A new report has been put before the New South Wales parliament that details a number of proposed changes that could have an impact on the way compensation is paid to sufferers of dust-borne diseases.

Asbestosis and related ailments are currently covered by legislation that allows for payments to be made for what is known as 'non-economic loss'.

These claims relate to the pain and suffering experienced by the victim and their family and is considered aside from any medical procedures and treatments designed to improve the quality of life.

However the current laws make it so that the family of the victim is unable to follow up on these payments in full if the sufferer dies before they are finalised in court.

Instead they are reduced on the grounds that the affected claimant is no longer able to realise the benefits of any compensation that they might have received.

The report from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) that has been brought before parliament has recommended this set of circumstances be changed.

Instead of a claim for non-economic loss being reduced on the death of the victim, the paper suggests that the full amount still be claimable by surviving family members.

The chair of the ALRC James Wood released a statement on the findings of the report, stating that the proposed reform was an important step for the victims, as the rapid progression of diseases such as mesothelioma meant that they frequently died before normal court processes allowed them to complete their claim.

Wood asserted: "This will put these dependants in an equivalent position to the dependants of a victim who was able to complete a claim for non-economic loss damages in his or her lifetime and as a consequence was in a position to pass them to his dependants.

"The Commission does not expect that abolishing the principle will generate any significant increase in the filing of compensation to relatives' claims in the Dust Diseases Tribunal, but it
will provide a fairer result for the few families affected."

In the past personal injury lawyers have been able to deliver asbestos victims with payments for pain and suffering that amount to between $200,000 and $300,000.

If the proposed changes are passed through parliament, it could produce significant changes to the way that claimants who are not subject to statutory workers compensation – such as amateur home renovators – are able to proceed with the assistance of a no win no fee law firm.

© 2011 
Gerard Malouf & Partners
 — Personal Injury Compensation Lawyers

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