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A brief guide to asbestos death compensation

Asbestos poisoning is a dangerous condition that might not present itself until years after the victim has been exposed. With potentially up to 40 years passing before it’s even diagnosed, it may be hard to remember where the poisoning might have taken place.

Unfortunately, realising someone has asbestos poisoning can come too late before they pass away and before they could file a claim. Dying of mesothelioma or a related disease is often recognised as wrongful death in Australia’s courts of law and should be filed as a claim.  

The death of a family member or close friend is something no one should go through alone. Here, we will highlight some of the basic information you’ll need to file the claim and get legal support.

Qualifying for asbestos death compensation

Asbestos poisoning can present itself in several ways, but it usually involves the lungs. This type of poisoning can develop into lung disease and can spread to other parts of the body like the throat, colon or stomach.  

Poisoning can begin when asbestos fibre is present in the air that someone is breathing. One small moment of exposure will likely not result in serious complications. Instead, the disease will develop over time if exposure occurred over a long period or a high amount of fibre was present. 

Once someone exhibits symptoms, an X-ray or CT scan will show pleural plaques, or areas of the lungs with benign thickened tissue around the lining. However, plaques take between 10 and 30 years to develop and are not necessarily the cause of symptoms. 

Signs of asbestos exposure in the lungs may include: 

  • Respiratory complications.
  • Chest pain and tightness.
  • Pleural effusion.
  • Dry cough or wheezing.
  • Pleural thickening.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Crackling sound when breathing.
  • Asbestosis.
  • Mesothelioma.

Many of these symptoms may be misdiagnosed as allergies or the common cold. Once someone you know begins showing signs, they should be taken to a doctor for regular checkups — especially if the symptoms persist. 

Signs that asbestos exposure has affected other parts of the body may include:

  • Weight loss.
  • Voice hoarseness.
  • Abdominal swelling and distention.
  • Hernia.
  • Bowel obstruction.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Clubbed fingers.

Noting these symptoms in the deceased can help you prove that they were an asbestos victim and likely suffered a subsequent asbestos-related disease. Even if you were unable to catch the disease before their death, there is still hope for reconciling the debt you may have incurred before and after their passing.

How to know if you are entitled to asbestos death compensation

It can be challenging to file a claim on an asbestos-related illness after the victim has passed. However, there are ways to submit a claim even though the deceased is no longer able to prove their exposure history or call out any witnesses. 

As a first step, get advice from a wrongful death lawyer, who can help you navigate the process in complicated legal battles such as this, where medical evidence is required. Even if the family member did not file before they passed on, you can still make an asbestos compensation claim if you incurred any debt in taking care of them, covering funeral costs or any other situation in which you were the primary caregiver.

Filing a claim after death

Taking control of asbestos-related death after a loved one has passed is both complicated and time-sensitive. Compensation for the family member is often less because there is no emotional distress coverage or ongoing medical bills involved. You have up to three years to file after the affected passes away. 

Remember, you can still file an asbestos-related claim on behalf of your loved one if:

  • Their employer is no longer in business.
  • They were self-employed.
  • They were not working for the employer right before their death.
  • They were employed by several different companies.
  • They were smokers.
  • They suffered second-hand exposure from someone else.
  • The exposure occurred during home renovations.
  • The exposure occurred overseas or in another state.

Asbestosis vs. mesothelioma

Knowing the difference between asbestosis and mesothelioma compensation can help you file the right claim. 

While the two diseases are very similar there are a few vital differences. The first difference being that asbestosis is not cancerous and is only limited to the respiratory tract. Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer that begins in either the lungs or the abdomen. If asbestosis is not caught early enough, it can develop into mesothelioma, but this can take 20 to 60 years, and sometimes longer.

Steps to file a claim for a deceased family member

It’s important to take steps toward filing right away after realising the victim died due to exposure to asbestos dust. The first step should be seeking out advice from an asbestos disease expert lawyer to ensure the complicated claim is handled correctly. 

The first thing you want to do is find a lawyer who will offer a free consultation and case review. They’ll want to get to know you, the deceased and look over the information you have. 

After you hire them, the asbestos lawyer will file the claim for you — following each state’s laws and regulations based on where the deceased might have been exposed.

Your asbestos disease lawyer will next conduct a discovery phase, in which they will research your case through investigations and interviews with people and businesses that may have been involved, or could speak on behalf of the deceased. The investigation will attempt to pin down where the exposure occurred and who exactly is at fault.

During the discovery process, you will need to reach out to hospitals and doctors’ offices to gather medical records. You will look for medical records of their illness that document their suffering through the disease or how it might have progressed into asbestos-related lung cancer. Because the deceased isn’t able to stake their claim for themself, you can help pursue the justice they deserve by proving the severity of their suffering and where it originated.

Once the investigation is complete, your lawyer should be able to pinpoint where the asbestos exposure occurred and reach out to the defendant.

The defendant will then have time to ask you questions about the case, the deceased and their illness to gather their documentation to support their defence or validate your claim. Your wrongful death lawyer will guide you through this process.

The resolution of the claim will either come to a settlement with the defendant or a trial verdict. Damages typically come within a year, but may arrive faster if the investigation ends in a settlement.  

How compensation is paid out

Your compensation will be paid out through an agreement you’ve made with the lawyer. You will both have decided ahead of time if you want the compensation provided in instalments or a lump sum. 

 After your lawyer subtracts their contingency fee, which is the agreed-upon costs for their work, the rest will go to you in the form of payment you prefer. Portions of your compensation may be subject to taxes, such as punitive damages awarded by a jury, but the majority of the payment will not be taxed.

The average payout for asbestos-related claims is around $300,000, according to the Parliament of Australia’s 2005 bill. 

Who can file a wrongful death claim?

Family members of the deceased can file for wrongful death on behalf of their estate. You are eligible to file the claim based on your closeness with the person who passed away. This could be:

  • A spouse or domestic partner.
  • Children, adopted children, grandson, granddaughter or stepchildren.
  • Parents, guardians and grandparents.
  • Dependents and those who suffered financially.
  • Siblings and half-siblings.
  • Anyone who was in loco parentis immediately before death.
  • A de facto partner who was with the deceased at least two years before they passed.

You may also be someone who was appointed to administer the decedent’s assets. In this case, the administrator would file under their name and any compensation won would be distributed to the beneficiaries listed in the deceased’s will. 

The goal of filing the claim on behalf of the decedent is to help families offset the debt of caring for them before they passed away, as well as any funeral expenses incurred. 

If a family member died as a result of a negligent worksite or any other accidental exposure while at their job, you should be eligible to file a claim, which will help cover the financial and emotional losses resulting from their death. 

A lawyer will do everything in their power to get you the compensation you deserve.

With advice from a professional in the legal field, you can decide what type of claim to file, the steps you need to take and what to expect throughout the process. It’s important to reiterate that you have up to three years to file a claim before the statute of limitations take effect. If it has been longer than three years before you decide to file, a lawyer will not be able to help you.

We recommend that you make contact with a lawyer as soon as you can. The law professionals at Gerard Malouf Partners are specialised and focused on supporting mesothelioma and asbestosis claims in Australia. You can come to us for no-obligation advice about your claim. 

We are the largest firm in Australia for wrongful death compensation, winning an excess of $4 billion for our clients so far. 

Contact us today to learn more

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