According to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, one in three homes in Australia contain asbestos. If you’ve suffered an asbestos-related illness you may be eligible to seek compensation from your landlord for costs related to a chronic condition or lung disease. A personal injury lawyer at Gerard Malouf & Partners can help guide you through the process.
Why you might sue your landlord for asbestos exposure
Asbestos safety is upheld by common law, environmental protections and public health laws. Landlords have a responsibility to their tenants to prevent or minimise vulnerability to asbestos on their premises. Additionally, renters have rights to a safe living environment under various renting and occupancy laws. Together, these create the legal frameworks under which a tenant can sue a landlord.
Suppose a landlord did not disclose the presence of asbestos in the building and the tenant was hanging shelves and drilled too deep into the wall cladding, releasing asbestos fibres. If the exposure is contained, the area decontaminated and the asbestos product removed, that could be all that is needed.
Then again, if several years later, the long-term tenant begins to have trouble breathing and their doctor determines that they have an asbestos-related illness, that tenant may need to take legal action against the landlord to seek remedy. In situations such as this, a tenant should seek out an asbestos injury lawyer for help.
Who can lodge an asbestos claim?
Tenants exposed to the known carcinogen asbestos by inhaling the microscopic fibres and have a medical diagnosis should consider seeking compensation. Claims involving asbestos site one or more following health issues:
- Asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).
- Lung cancer.
- Cancer of the throat (i.e., larynx, pharynx and oesophagus).
- Ovarian cancer.
- Testicular mesothelioma.
Effectively, the fibres lodge into the tissues of the lungs or pleura (the lining of our body’s organs) and cause inflammation and scarring. In the most unfortunate cases, exposure to asbestos can lead to death. Read our guide on asbestos death compensation.
Environmental health experts advise that any length of exposure to asbestos can be harmful. However, since it’s common for symptoms to be overlooked or not manifest for decades, it is wise to know some typical health indicators of asbestos exposure. Of course, only a medical professional will be able to test for indications of exposure, like soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRP), with certainty.
What are the signs of asbestos exposure?
A tenant may experience difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing or a tight chest. That could be an indication of a pleural disease or asbestosis which involves a stiffening of the lungs. These conditions may increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Remember that asbestos-related diseases are often undetected until the issue is advanced. For example, the latency period (the time between exposure and onset of symptoms) for mesothelioma is decades long. Health concerns stemming from asbestos should be taken to your doctor.
What should renters do if they suspect asbestos exposure?
Anyone who is worried that they were made susceptible to asbestos fibres should see a medical professional. Though the use of asbestos was banned by the government in 2003, if you are concerned about the presence of asbestos, it’s very important that the property owner address it and, if needed, remove friable materials like insulation according to regulations.
Who do renters contact to complain about unhealthy exposure to asbestos?
A licensed tradesperson knows how to safely remove, decontaminate the area and dispose of asbestos. For health reasons, only a licensed asbestos removalist should handle easily crumbled or friable asbestos. When renters believe the appropriate steps weren’t taken, they should contact their landlord and local asbestos safety authority.
If the response doesn’t satisfactorily resolve the health and safety concerns of asbestos exposure, legal action may be your best way forward.
Why you need a personal injury lawyer to sue for asbestos exposure
This type of legal action requires specialised knowledge of dust disease cases, personal injury law and local statutory laws related to asbestos and landlord liability.
According to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, landlords are responsible for warning tenants of possible asbestos in the building and addressing issues that arise from damaged or disturbed products or materials. The measures for meeting this obligation include:
- Landlords are required to disclose that asbestos is present in the building in certain states.
- Property owners may need to have the premises assessed for asbestos.
- Asbestos testing and removal can be claimed by the owner as a tax deductible expense.
- Asbestos disclosure can be a label placed in a highly visible area.
A personal injury lawyer will be able to determine if your landlord or property manager failed to keep you safe from asbestos and advocate for the maximum compensation.
Compensation for an asbestos-related illness
A successful conclusion to an asbestos claim depends on the impact of the exposure (i.e., loss of earning capacity or income, medical expenses and non-economic losses) to the tenant.
Typical asbestos exposure compensation claims include:
- Personal injury: Lodged by the living tenant to recover several types of losses and damages by settlement or judgement.
- Trust fund: Businesses payout claims of personal injury and death from asbestos that are found to be related to their products.
- Wrongful death: Brought by a family member on behalf of the deceased to recover expenses related to medical expenses, palliative care and the funeral.
Compensation for an asbestos claim varies according to local law and the source of the payout. However, the figures range from tens of thousands to over a million dollars in compensation. For example, the maximum that NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal will provide is $15,000. Comparatively, the average James Hardie Trust Fund claim size was $147,769 for asbestosis as of March 2022. To determine the compensation you might expect, reach out to a personal injury lawyer with experience representing asbestos-related illness claims in your area.
If you have received a diagnosis tied to asbestos exposure, the best way to recoup costs related to the care, treatment, loss of income and other expenses may be to sue your landlord. Contact Gerard Malouf & Partners for no-obligation legal advice.