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How to claim for asbestosis

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that was both mined and imported into Australia for decades. It was used in shipyards, construction and other industries, and hundreds of thousands of Australians were exposed to asbestos fibres even after companies knew that such exposure was highly dangerous and could ultimately be a death sentence.

Exposure to asbestos has been linked to a variety of cancers and lung diseases that may not show up until 10-50 years after exposure and often lead to death not very long after diagnosis. Asbestos diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma are currently responsible for around 700 diagnoses and deaths a year in Australia.

Because ailments like mesothelioma and asbestosis have only one well-known cause — asbestos exposure — and large companies have been held liable for exposing workers and homeowners to asbestos due to their failure to warn people of the risks, many individuals with asbestos-related diseases are qualified to make a claim for compensation. This helps victims pay medical costs and provide for their families.

What is asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a chronic, incurable lung condition. The only known cause is heavy, prolonged exposure to asbestos. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing and permanent lung damage, due to inflammation and scarring in the lungs from asbestos fibres.

The symptoms of asbestosis can be similar to symptoms of other types of asbestos-related dust disease, including:


This is a rare form of cancer of the membranous tissue that lines the body cavities, and is present in the lungs of more than 90% of asbestos disease victims (although a few people have it in their abdominal cavity, around their heart or around reproductive organs). A mesothelioma diagnosis often comes only months before the illness leads to death: Once it presents, it’s already begun moving incredibly quickly throughout the body.

Pleural plaques

Pleural plaques present as white, smooth, raised scar tissue, usually on the internal chest wall, diaphragm and outer lining of the lung. These can be an early sign of asbestos fibre exposure, and may precede asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer. However, many people with severe asbestos exposure never develop pleural plaques, and some who do don’t experience impaired lung function for years after pleural thickening occurs.

Deciding on the right claim to make

You may have more than one avenue for filing a claim for asbestos compensation. There are two main types of claims: civil and statutory.

Civil vs. statutory claims

A civil or common law claim can be filed as a personal injury claim or a workplace negligence claim. If you were exposed to asbestos and subsequently developed asbestosis in the course of your employment many years ago, you can file against your employer or a manufacturer of the products you used.

If your asbestosis wasn’t caused by exposure through your employment,, your lawyer may advise that you file a statutory claim with one of the many payout schemes available across Australia. Some of these schemes are funded by companies against whom massive settlements were won when it was discovered they knew about the dangers of asbestos fibre exposure but failed to protect workers or warn the public.

Commonwealth claims are administered by Comcare. Each state or territory also has its own scheme to manage asbestos disease-related claims and payouts. You may be able to file both a statutory and a common law claim.

The claims process

The statute of limitations for filing an asbestos compensation claim is typically 6 to 12 months from diagnosis. Claims must be brought while the claimant is still living. Nearly all claims for asbestosis and other dust diseases are settled in less than 18 months, and many take only 3-4 months.

Proving liability in the case of asbestos-related disease is predicated on the understanding that if you were exposed to asbestosis, someone beside yourself is to blame. If that person, company or entity still exists, you can bring a common law claim against them. If there is no-one to claim against, you can still file a statutory claim for asbestos compensation.

Compensation amounts vary widely. If you are severely affected and in the end stages of dust disease caused by asbestos, you may be able to earn a large award based not only on the income and super contributions your family loses due to your untimely death but also on pain and suffering inflicted on you and your family.

Why you should have a lawyer when filing an asbestosis claim

Having a lawyer helps ensure there are no mistakes made when you file a compensation claim for asbestosis or any other asbestos disease. At Gerard Malouf & Partners, we work on a no-win, no-fee basis for asbestos exposure victims, meaning that unless you win compensation for your asbestos injury, you don’t owe us any legal fees.

The advantages of having an asbestos lawyer on your side are many, especially if you are still struggling with your diagnosis or your health is declining rapidly. As your legal representatives, we can take care of all necessary steps for filing a claim.

It’s vital to gather evidence to support your claim, including any available records related to your employment as well as when or where you could’ve been exposed. We’ll handle this and also arrange to have all of your medical files copied and collected into a single file to present as evidence to support your claim.

Another task is calculating your personal damages as a result of your asbestos exposure and resulting health condition. We will carefully consider your medical bills and any other costs associated with your dust disease. Then we’ll add the financial support you provide to your dependents, which will cease if you become too ill to work or pass away from your disease. This includes all lost income from wages and super contributions that cannot be made.

If you are applying for compensation through a common law claim based on personal injury or workers’ compensation, we can represent you in negotiations for a settlement or in court if needed. If you are filing for compensation through a government-run statutory scheme, we will help you to achieve your settlement.


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Gerard Malouf & Partners
 — Personal Injury Compensation Lawyers

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