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I have been Diagnosed with a Dust Disease Due to Exposure at Work. What are My Entitlements?

Dust diseases are lung conditions caused by inhaling certain products which can be in a form of powder or dust. Most often, dust diseases are caused by asbestos dust. Workplaces where exposure is common to include home building sites, commercial construction sites, import and waterside precincts, logistics and trucking industries, excavations and tunnel work and workshops where caesar stone is cut. Symptoms of dust disease generally do not appear until many years after exposure and include coughing, shortness of breath or abnormal breathing, chest pain and mucus in the airways.

If you have been diagnosed with a dust disease due to exposure during your employment, you may be entitled to two forms of compensation.

The first mode of compensation is through the Icare Insurance Scheme. Your eligibility to apply through the Icare scheme depends on the following criteria:

  1. A medical diagnosis of a dust disease is eligible to be covered by the scheme.
  2. Evidence that demonstrates that the exposure to harmful dust occurred while you were employed in NSW.
  3. The level of your disability as a result of the disease.

If you meet the above criteria, you may be entitled to weekly payments from Icare which compensate for the loss of income as a result of your disease. These are payable beyond retirement age and are calculated based on your level of impairment and whether your disease occurred wholly in NSW. Icare may also meet the costs of reasonable medical, hospital, ambulance, and related expenses for the treatment of your work-related disease.

The second mode of compensation is an entitlement to lump-sum damages claimed through the Dust Diseases Tribunal and can include the following depending on your level of impairment: –

  • Non-Economic Loss/Pain and Suffering
  • Past Treatment Expenses
  • Future Treatment Expenses
  • Past Wage Loss
  • Future Wage Loss
  • Past and Future Loss of Superannuation
  • Past Domestic Assistance
  • Future Domestic Assistance
  • Damages for Loss of Life Expectancy
  • Interest on Past and General Damage

Damages for dust diseases are calculated differently from other personal injury claims and are governed by different legislation. They do not have the same limitations for time to commence proceedings or the maximum damages recoverable for pain and suffering. Moreover, claiming one dust condition does not preclude you from bringing others if you develop other conditions as a result of your exposure. For example, if you make a claim for asbestos exposure and your condition later deteriorates further to mesothelioma, you may be entitled to bring an additional claim for damages.

Due to the rapidly disabling nature of dust disease, compensation can be very valuable to you and your family once symptoms become apparent. Your family may still have some entitlements concerning some of the above heads of compensation such as pain and suffering, even following your death. However, these proceedings must be filed before the death of an injured person so it is important to see a lawyer as soon as possible after a diagnosis.

If you have been diagnosed with a dust disease and think it may be due to past exposure at work, contact Beilby Poulden Costello so that we can act expediently on your behalf and obtain the necessary evidence to protect your rights.