Families ‘should pursue mesothelioma claims’

Date: Jan 23, 2015

The families of individuals who suffer from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases have been urged to pursue compensation claims as quickly as possible after the diagnosis. 

Asbestos awareness groups warned that current legislation means people may not be entitled to compensation payments if they fail to initiate a claim before the sufferer dies.

Barry Robson, president of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia, told the ABC that families often miss out because they spend most of their time caring for loved ones to consider legal entitlements.

"For mesothelioma … on average, [the time] from diagnosis to death is 155 days. That's not a lot of time to get your head around a death sentence," he explained.

However, families face "another kick in the guts" when they realise they have missed the claim deadline after the sufferer passes away.

Mesothelioma claims

Catherine O'Farrell's husband, Bob Wallin, died from mesothelioma in 2008, and she described the compensation process as a challenge.

The Sydney-based widow was eligible for compensation upon her spouse's death, but a legal precedent known as the Strikwerda principle meant her payments were reduced.

Under the Strikwerda law, any damages paid to someone with an asbestos-related disease for pain and suffering are subtracted from future compensation provided to their relatives.

The Asbestos Diseases Foundation is attempting to change this law, while Ms O'Farrell claimed it left her with significant debts and a daughter who needed financial support.

"It was a very hard slog and I just don't feel that any family should have to go through that," she said

NSW law change 'needed'

Other states in Australia have already removed the Strikwerda law, and politicians have urged the NSW government to do the same.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said it was a matter of decency to allow families who have suffered the tragedy of a dust diseases death to receive compensation as easily as possible.

"It's a damning indictment on politicians here in NSW that we haven't remedied the law. It's just such an obvious injustice," he added.

However, according to the ABC, the state government has indicated it will not make changes to legislation that could have an adverse effect on the asbestos compensation scheme.

The initiative already has "viability issues", a spokesperson for Attorney-General Brad Hazzard said.

Instead, the representative said the government would do "all it can to ensure the scheme's ongoing capacity, and in that context will consider any changes that assist the scheme".

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