Silicosis can develop due to prolonged silica dust exposure, and inhaling these particles damages lung tissue leading to scarring and possibly even more serious diseases. The symptoms of silicosis include coughing, breathlessness, and severe chest pain.
The most severe cases result in death. As an occupational disease, there are legal implications and those are focused on employer responsibility. Laws and regulations require employers to provide a safe working environment which means providing protective gear and limiting silica dust exposure.
Failure to comply with regulations could result in fines, legal action, and silicosis compensation claims by workers.
Legal Rights of Silicosis Victims in Australia
If you have silicosis in Australia, you have legal rights and protections. Workers’ compensation may be the most obvious step, and silicosis is covered by it. You can claim compensation that covers income support and medical expenses.
Employers are legally obligated to follow the rules and regulations that create a safe working environment and failure to do so can result in legal action.
You can seek additional compensation by filing a common law claim against the negligent party. Class action lawsuits have been successful in the past, with groups of workers seeking compensation for their respiratory illnesses and ensuring employers are held responsible. Statutory schemes are available for historical exposure, even if the business is no longer operating. In NSW, you can request support services from the Dust Diseases Board.
Workers’ Compensation for Silicosis
After a diagnosis of silicosis in Australia, eligible workers can seek workers’ compensation. Once you have been diagnosed, you should notify your employer and reach out to a specialist law firm before you file a claim.
To be eligible you need to be employed, the diagnosis has to be linked to exposure to silica dust in the workplace, and you have to comply with the treatment prescribed. Employers must cooperate with the claims process, they are required to provide relevant documents and records.
Legal Challenges and Complexities in Silicosis Compensation Cases
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in securing silicosis compensation is proving causation. If you have been diagnosed with silicosis and you’ve only had one employer, the process may be more straightforward than for someone who has worked for a different employer every two or three years. In addition to your medical records, you will need a thorough work history, exposure level information, and expert testimony. It’s particularly challenging because silicosis may not manifest for many years, which makes linking it to a specific employer difficult.
There are law firms that specialise in silicosis and workers’ compensation claims. They can help you determine which steps to take in a complex system.
Class Actions and Silicosis Compensation
You may find joining a class action is the right move – there’s strength in numbers, and this move allows you to pool your resources and share evidence to build a compelling case. A class action suit could be a better way to consolidate similar claims and streamline the process for a quicker resolution.
It’s also more accessible financially and provides a group of workers the opportunity to hold an employer accountable for their actions. It does require careful coordination and the legal strategy and evidence matter – work with a law firm with experience in both silicosis and class action lawsuits.
Legal Support and Resources for Silicosis Victims
In addition to the Dust Disease Board, you can seek assistance from legal aid, support organisations, and legal professionals. The Dust Disease Board and Lung Foundation Australia is a valuable asset that can provide you with information and resources. An experienced lawyer who specialises in silicosis cases can also provide you with important representation through the process and will provide you with valuable guidance.
Time Limits and Statute of Limitations
There are no time limits in NSW when it comes to filing for silicosis compensation. Silicosis can take years to develop, but you should file a compensation claim as close to diagnosis as possible. The claims process can take up to 10 months to complete, so the sooner you start, the better.
Recent Legal Developments and Precedents
Dubbed the “new asbestos” by unions, Safe Work Australia has been asked to look at what regulations would be required to ban engineered stone to reduce the risk of silica dust causing silicosis. Additionally, doctors face a fine if they do not take the necessary steps to register silicosis diagnoses.
The most recent changes occurred in 2022, and this improved compensation arrangements for people with occupational diseases like silicosis. The changes allow workers to access a lump sum payment without proving the illness has stabilised.
Cover all your bases as you explore which legal avenue is right for you – you have plenty of options. Reach out to several qualified lawyers and take advice on all the options before you settle on which decision is right for you.
At AJB Stevens, we are experienced in launching successful silicosis compensation claims. Reach out to book a Silicosis consultation – we would be happy to hear your case and offer advice about which next steps are right for you.