Asbestos lawyer featuring on 2GB discussing asbestos disease claims and compensation – 27 October 2020
Asbestos lawyer providing Q & A on the 2GB Deborah Knight Afternoon Show discussing Asbestos – 27 October 2020
DK – Deborah Knight/AP – Ann-Maree Pascoli /C1,2,3, etc – Callers
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Read the transcript below:
DK Now today on legal matters we are talking asbestos, and you might be concerned that your property was built with the deadly fibres, you might be concerned you’ve been renovating, you’ve got an older property and you fear you might have been exposed to asbestos. Give us a call, the open line number is 131 873. Ann-Maree Pascoli, who is an asbestos litigation specialist from Turner Freeman Lawyers will take your call. She’s on the line for us now, Ann-Maree thanks for joining us.
AP Thank you for having me Deb.
DK Now asbestos, I know a lot of people sort of think asbestos, with older homes, that there are ways that we can ensure that they are dealt with and handled properly, but a lot of people have been exposed potentially to asbestos and aren’t sure of what their rights might be.
AP Yea look, it’s difficult Deb, because unless somebody actually gets an asbestos related condition as a consequence of being exposed to the asbestos, there’s not much that the law can do. I mean, certainly you can make complaints to relevant authorities if you think that, you know, a neighbour or something like that has exposed you to asbestos, but unless you actually contract a disease, the law is a little bit behind.
DK And I know with the storms that we’re copping at the moment too, and with the bushfires recently, it was used as a building product in so many homes and people are concerned, and rightfully so, that they might be exposed when homes are damaged or when people might be renovating even in the neighbourhood.
AP That’s exactly right, and you know, you need to be really careful, because the reality is you can’t actually tell whether there is asbestos in the products unless it’s tested, so my advice would be to be extremely cautions and if you’re unsure, have it tested.
DK Alright, we’ve got some calls coming in, let’s go to Peter first up, hi Peter.
C1 Hi, how’re you going?
DK Yea good. What did you want to know from Ann-Maree today?
C1 I’m 61 now, but when I was an apprentice I was basically covered in asbestos when I was grinding asbestos roos with an angle grinder and I would come home covered in it. I’m ok now, there’s no problems, but what happens in a couple of years’ time if I start having problems? Who do I claim from? What do I do? How do I do it?
DK That’s a good question Peter, let’s go to Ann-Maree.
AP Peter, it depends on what disease you develop, hopefully nothing, but if you’re exposed to asbestos in the course of your work in New South Wales, you could have potential entitlements through icare Dust Diseases Care, which is a statutory workers compensation scheme. You may also have what we call a common law claim which is a claim in negligence either against your employer or the manufacturer of the products that you used. So, my advice would be to keep an eye on it, keep in touch with your doctor, and if you ever do develop a condition, and I hope you don’t, but if you ever do, get in touch with some specialist lawyers like Turner Freeman Lawyers.
DK Is there any way you can sort of lodge your concerns with a particular body, you know, flagging that you have been exposed. I mean, is there a time limit, does that apply?
AP There’s no time limits in New South Wales for bringing claims that arise from an asbestos exposure, but you do need to act quickly because we need to make sure that claims are filed in people’s lifetime to ensure that all of the entitlements are preserved. In terms of lodging an interest, icare will actually take your application now, they will assess it, and even if there is no dust disease at the moment, they keep those details on record and they follow up and medical review their clients every, you know, 2-3 years depending on what they think is necessary, and it can actually be kept track of there. And we do a similar thing here in the office as well, keep records on file and if anything ever does develop, then somebody is pretty covered at that point and we can look after it for them.
DK Yea, it would be worth getting in contact with Ann-Maree, Peter, and looking at that icare website just to ensure that you do have your concerns lodged as Ann-Maree said. Another Peter in Merrylands has got a question for you too, hi Peter.
C2 Oh, g’day, can you hear me?
DK Yes, loud and clear.
C2 Oh ok fantastic. Firstly, love your work Deb. Love your work.
DK Thank you.
C2 Ok, so my question is that my father passed away from a lung cancer that was related to asbestos, and he did receive compensation. Now I just want to know where I stand now, because as a child I think I was exposed to it, but, you know, what happens now, I’ve never made a claim, never thought of making a claim or anything like that. I’ve got bronchitis and asthma now, and it was sort of like a late onset sort of thing.
DK Alright, well let’s see if Ann-Maree’s got any advice for you, and I’m sorry for your loss with your father Peter. Ann-Maree, any suggestions?
AP Look Peter, unless you’ve actually been told by a doctor that you have an asbestos related lung condition, there is nothing that you can claim. But if you know you’re been exposed, my suggestion is just stay in touch with your doctor, have regular chest x-rays or CT scans, whatever your doctor recommends. If you’re concerned about your breathing, ask for a referral to a respiratory physician and they can assess whether or not you have a dust disease and whether or not its causing you any kind of breathing impairment. But certainly, asthma is not related to asbestos exposure, and neither is bronchitis, to my knowledge.
DK Alright, well that’s reassuring. Just on the text line too, Rick says that he’s been in contact with asbestos and he has a spot outside his lung and he says he makes sure that he is tested every year, which obviously is the advice, as you have already mentioned Ann-Maree, that you’ve got to stay on top of it and be in contact with medical professionals.
AP Absolutely, and regularly in touch so that they can get on top of it quickly if there is anything there.
DK Alright, Brendon’s got a question for you, hi Brendon.
AP Hi Deb, hi Ann-Maree, thanks for taking my call. I’m in Brisbane and I’m a bit like your first Peter, during my apprenticeship as a carpenter, we were constantly cutting hardy plank for the external cladding on houses, and the compressed sheeting with power saws. You would go home literally covered in dust and three days later you’re blowing white dust out of your nose. I’m 57 and I haven’t had anything yet, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m a smoker, but lately I’ve found myself a little bit short of breath from time to time, but is there a claim I can make if there is something in the future up in Queensland?
AP Ah, I missed the end of your question Brendon….
DK Just wondering if there was a claim, similar to what Peter was asking, that could be made in the future if his health situation changed.
AP Yea, look, if your health situation changes, absolutely, get in touch with your doctor like I mentioned before and let your doctor keep on top of it and if you ever are diagnosed with an asbestos related condition then, you know, get in touch. We’ve got offices in Queensland as well, so there’s people in Queensland who could help you out in Brisbane, but yea absolutely, stay on top of it and if it changes, get in touch.
DK And the compensation scheme is national isn’t it?
AP Well, it’s not. Every state has it’s own statutory scheme. Some better than others. In New South Wales ours is actually really good, icare is fantastic. The common law claims, the court claims are also available in different states but with different rules about what you can and can’t claim.
DK OK, there you go Brendan, hopefully that’s helpful. Shane’s got a question as well for you Ann-Maree.
C3 Oh, good afternoon. I’m an ex-serviceman, and like most ex-serviceman I was in the Navy and a lot of the pipe work and overhead cables were covered with asbestos and our cure for not getting anything off them was to paint them. And if it wasn’t nailed down, keep painting it. So a lot of ex-servicemen now have medical problems. Myself, I’ve had 3 heart attacks. There was supposed to have been a case a few years back where the government was being taken to court, I believe, over asbestos. I’d like to know whatever happened? And what recourse to servicemen have in this case.
DK Yea, good question from Shane. Ann-Maree?
AP Yea look, servicemen, certainly in the common law jurisdiction, so in the court claims, you have entitlements. Because you were employed by the Commonwealth Government, there’s no state statutory entitlement, but there are other commonwealth entitlements that you could have, and certainly a court claim could be brought if you have been diagnosed with a condition. So we run a lot of claims for ex-servicemen, there was a lot of asbestos used on board ships.
DK Alright Shane, thank you for the call. We might take a quick break. Kat’s got a very relevant question to everyone, because we know a lot of homes have been built with asbestos, so we’ll hear from Kat right after this.
DK Deborah Knight with you on afternoons, we are talking legal matters, specifically asbestos with Ann-Maree Pascoli from Turner Freeman Lawyers. If you’ve got a question, 131 873 is the number to call. Ann-Maree is an asbestos litigation specialist and we’ve got our $100 Westfield gift card as well for the best call. Let’s go to Kat now who has a question for Ann-Maree, hi Kat.
C4 Hi. I’m looking to buy an apartment. Now how can I be 100% sure that the cladding or anything else in the apartment is connected to asbestos?
AP The only way to be absolutely certain, Kat, is to have a specialist come out and take samples and test those samples, so they can give you a report and let you know whether or not there is asbestos in any of the materials in the unit.
DK Would you advise that people should do that when they’re purchasing properties.
AP Look, only if you think that you’re going to be renovating it, because asbestos, as long as it’s not disturbed….
DK But what about storm damage, I mean there are other ways too….
AP It could be, yep. It’s a matter of personal preference I guess. In unit I’m not sure that that would be a massive concern, but yea, certainly in houses.
DK And what about an age range of properties? What is the sort of build that we’re looking at here.
AP Anything pre-1988 you’d be fairly concerned about.
DK Pre 1988? That’s a lot of buildings!
AP It is a lot of buildings!
DK And in terms of the older properties too, I mean many of them are subject to DIY’s and reno’s, what should you be weary of or cautious about when you are doing renovations for a property built prior to 1988?
AP If you’re doing renovations, my recommendation would absolutely be to have an inspection done and a report provided about the presence of asbestos, because it’s very difficult, well, it’s almost impossible, for a lay person to tell the difference between something like gyprock or plaster, and asbestos containing fibro, so I would absolutely recommend that you have an assessment done before you do a reno.
DK Is that a requirement? As part of… I mean obviously with council before purchasing a property, you’re advised to get a building and pest inspection, is that included in those inspections?
AP Not generally, no. There needs to be more done in that space I think by local council or government about keeping an asbestos register.
DK Now you mentioned earlier that asthma is not one of the side effects or causes from exposure to asbestos. What are the symptoms? What should you be concerned about?
AP Well, the symptoms will be very similar to what you experience with asthma, so there will be breathlessness, you’re looking out for coughs, mucus production, if that’s really bad, chest pain, sometimes pain in the back that can radiate from the chest, they’re the main ones. Mostly it’s breathlessness and cough.
DK And how long does it take from these symptoms to then develop into a disease?
AP When the symptoms show, if you do have a disease, generally the disease is present. The latency period is between the time of exposure and the development of the condition. So, some conditions, the most serious conditions, generally the latency period is somewhere between 10-40 years, and with the benign conditions, you know, usually you’re looking at something like 20-40 years between the time of exposure and the development of the symptoms.
DK I think this is a perennial question in terms of exposure, if you do work on your house and you do end up with mesothelioma or with a condition related to exposure to asbestos, is that considered your fault, or is it the fact that the manufacturer is liable here?
AP It’s generally going to be the fault of the manufacturer. There’s no way for anybody doing a home renovation now to know that asbestos is present in the materials, so our argument is that the manufacturers should have done a mass media campaign, or put warnings on the products, or something like that to warn people.
DK Do they try to counter these legal cases with that issue of personal responsibility?
DK And that’s part of one of their main counter claims is it?
AP Yes. Yes they try.
DK Which is why we need the help and support of someone like yourself from Turner Freeman Lawyers. A question from Jason too on the text line, Jason’s saying there are many drug options for mesothelioma that are not registered in Australia, he’s wondering can Australian’s get access to them in their asbestos claims?
AP So immunotherapy drugs, for example, are not subsidised by the government, they are not on the PBS Scheme. You can access them through icare, so icare will fund the cost of immunotherapy if they accept your claim. And certainly in a court claim, if you don’t have icare entitlements, we would make that claim for you and include the expenses part of that.
DK Ok, Helen’s called in as well, hi Helen.
C5 Hi Deb. I’ve spoken to you before. I am the former member of parliament who passed landmark legislation on asbestos in 2004 and in Canberra it is against the law for anybody to renovate a commercial or residential property built before 1988 without having a report done. I’m shocked that in New South Wales this is still not the case. At the time, the late Bernie Banton, who was on the Asbestos Diseases Foundation Committee, I flew him down to Canberra with his wife when my landmark bill went through and everybody tried to stop me from doing this. I got sabotaged left, right and centre, and I was determined for the sake of the widows who had lost their husbands at the age of 50 who’d worked at James Hardie or worked on work sites and their daughters got mesothelioma, their children….
DK Yea, the impact is so wide spread, absolutely. Helen, well done, and Helen Cross, you’re right I have spoken to you in the past and that is phenomenal that it is the case in the ACT but as you say, Ann-Maree, more work does need to be done in that field.
AP It absolutely does, especially here in NSW and also across other states as well.
DK We are out of time, Helen thank you for calling in and Ann-Maree thank you so much for your time. We will talk asbestos again in Tuesday legal matters in the future because a lot of people are interested in that subject. Thanks so much for joining us. And we will give Kat our $100 Westfield voucher. If you want to get in contact with Turner Freeman Lawyers, their website is turnerfreeman.com.au or give them a call, 13 43 63.