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By Victoria Keays, Principal Lawyer, Dust Diseases department

A common misconception is that asbestos exposure, and asbestos-related diseases, are yesterday’s problem. Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While the face of disease sufferers may be changing, the devastation caused remains the same, and many everyday Australians are still at risk. This remains Australia’s greatest industrial tragedy.

Below, as a top mesothelioma law firm, we answer practical questions and discuss legal options for mesothelioma and other asbestos victims.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that was extensively mined and milled throughout the 20th century for its excellent insulation properties. Here in Australia, we had the highest per capita consumption of asbestos products. The mineral was mined locally, most notoriously at the crocidolite (blue asbestos) mine in Western Australia, which is said to have had the most toxic asbestos in the world.

Asbestos-related diseases and conditions

Asbestos caused devastation for thousands of Australians over many decades, including conditions such as pleural plaques, pleural disease, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. These conditions vary in severity, and while there have been some medical advancements in recent years, unfortunately some of these conditions carry short prognoses.

The latest report from the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR), published in August 2019, demonstrates the changing face of this disease. Mesothelioma still more commonly afflicts men, but the number of women diagnosed in Australia rose from 106 in 2011 to 142 in 2018.

Have I been exposed?

These days, asbestos-related diseases are uncommon – most people who are exposed to asbestos do not develop any health conditions as a consequence. However, if it does eventuate, the consequences can be grave.

Most houses built before 1983 will likely contain asbestos cement products. Asbestos cement building products, if in good condition and not disturbed, do not generally pose a threat to health, but it is easy for them to break and become fibrous.

More people are being diagnosed as a result of domestic renovation exposure, with 21 per cent of those surveyed in the AMR reporting non-occupational exposure to asbestos, and 63.8 per cent reporting both occupational and non-occupational exposure to asbestos.

There are increasing numbers of people who develop mesothelioma as a result of performing building and renovation work, or being around renovation work when asbestos cement products are cut.

I’ve been exposed. What do I need to do?

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, you should do the following:

  1. Tell your general practitioner so they can give you medical advice and note the exposure in your medical records.
  2. If your exposure occurred at work, report the exposure to Worksafe. Incident notification forms can be obtained from Worksafe Victoria’s website.
  3. Register your exposure with Gordon Legal. Registering your details means that in the unfortunate event that you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, there is a contemporaneous record. We will update you from time to time with relevant information.
What to know about compensation claims

If you, your family or friends are diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition, it is important to act quickly. To protect a sufferer’s entitlement to pain and suffering damages, a case must be issued in that person’s lifetime. This is a simple step a lawyer can take, when they know a person’s history of asbestos exposure.

What if I don’t know how I have been exposed to asbestos?

Sometimes people can’t immediately remember how they have been exposed to asbestos. At Gordon Legal, we are experts at piecing together your history and identifying asbestos exposure. This is done by one of our experienced lawyers visiting you, often at home or hospital, and talking about your history.

Can you sue for mesothelioma?

If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma or another compensable asbestos-related condition such as asbestosis or asbestos-related lung cancer, you are likely to be entitled to claim for compensation. Talk to us to explore your legal options.

Are mesothelioma settlements taxable income?

Compensation for mesothelioma or any other asbestos related disease is not subject to tax, however any interest made on compensation is subject to tax.

How much money do mesothelioma patients get?

Different laws apply in different states, and sometimes for different time periods. It is critical to get expert advice from a lawyer who acts exclusively for dust disease sufferers, and can talk you through these important issues.

What to do if this information applies to you

At Gordon Legal, we understand that asbestos related diseases are a personal issue.

For personalised and individual advice, we offer consultations to discuss your matter.

Please call Gordon Legal (Melbourne) on 1800 21 22 23 or our Geelong office on 1800 21 22 23 to speak with a member of our team.

Given the current environment, we are providing consultations over the phone, Zoom, WebEx or Skype.

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