State Government review Workers Compensation for Asbestos related diseases

On 23 May 2013, the Queensland State Government released the outcome of its review of the Queensland Workers’ Compensation Scheme. Latent onset disease claims, and in particular claims for workers’ compensation for asbestos related disease, were considered in the review.

Those who have been employed in Queensland and have had exposure to asbestos during that employment will often have compensation entitlements through WorkCover Queensland. These claims are initiated in the same manner as other injuries that occur in the workplace. Generally, lump sum compensation will be available where there is benign asbestos disease that is causing a reduction in breathing capacity or the diagnosis is of a malignant condition such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Lump sum payments will depend on the extent of the reduction in breathing capacity for benign asbestos disease. Suffers of mesothelioma and lung cancer receive a statutory lump sum payment which can vary according to age.

Sufferers of symptom free asbestos disease can still lodge an application with WorkCover Queensland. Queensland workers’ who have been exposed to asbestos can have the medical expenses associated with the ongoing monitoring or their condition paid by WorkCover Queensland.

Turner Freeman has acted for hundreds of Queensland workers suffering from asbestos disease in claims for compensation with WorkCover Queensland. Claims can involve complex historical and medical issues. Generally, a claim with WorkCover Queensland needs to be lodged within six months of diagnosis of asbestos disease although there are circumstances where WorkCover Queensland will grant an extension of this time limit. Family members who were dependent upon a worker who has died from asbestos disease can also claim workers’ compensation.

During this review process, submissions were made Turner Freeman lawyers on behalf of asbestos disease sufferers. The essence of the submissions was that the current Queensland Workers’ Compensation Scheme provides fair and reasonable compensation to Queensland workers suffering from asbestos disease. We are pleased the review has recommended no change to the legislation in respect of asbestos disease claims.

The Review Committee did report that a consistent national approach to workers’ compensation for asbestos disease is appropriate. Safe Work Australia, a national organisation, is currently considering a national system for compensation for asbestos disease. However, it is not expected that such a system will be introduced at any time in the near future.