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Gaius Whiffin discussing Personal Injury Law on 2GB

Skin cancer discussion on 2GB

Tuesday, 22 November 2016 


            WM– Warren More /Gaius Whiffin–   C1,2,3, etc – Callers 


WM    Well I swear this is a coincidence based on our previous caller there about the kids out in the sun and the head but it’s National Skin Cancer Action Week and with two and three Australians diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70, it’s a reminder about the importance of sun protection and early detection. So this week in our Legal Matters Segment we are going to have a look at the laws around personal injury which includes skin cancer and what you can do about it and thanks to Turner Freeman Lawyers we have a $100 Westfield Voucher to give away to the caller who asks the most relevant question.

Turner Freeman Lawyers provide a range of specialised legal services including compensation and negligence lawasbestos litigation, superannuation and disability claims, family and employment law Wills and estate and property law as well. With offices in Sydney, Parramatta, Campbelltown, Penrith, Newcastle and Wollongong – that’s in New South Wales. They also have offices in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. So now’s the time to call 131 873 if you have a legal question, we are particularly talking about personal injury and

Gaius Whiffin is an accredited specialist in personal injury law and a partner in the Sydney office. He…….. skin cancer litigation in the early 2000s and has acted for more sufferers of skin cancer more than any other lawyer in Australia. Thanks for your time Gaius.

GW     Thank you Warren.

WM    Well I tell you what there is a bit around about this of late isn’t there when it comes to you know – what’s going on in that area of sun cancer….. skin cancer – and the fact that what you could have a case if you had spent a fair amount of work time outside? 

GW     Yeah – look if you’ve contracted skin cancer it’s due to sun exposure. Most solar related skin cancers are due to sun exposure – it depends where you’ve contracted those skin cancers. Most people that work in occupations involving a substantial amount of exposure whether you are in the building industry or whether you’re a council work or work on the water front or something like that, you are going to be exposed to a lot of work outdoors and sure you may have been exposed to the sun in your recreational life, everyone is – just walking along the street you’re exposed to the sun and a small amount is good for you. The real trick is whether your employment related exposure is the most substantial exposure.  So if you compare the two and the most substantial exposure is at work then yes you are entitled to compensation.

WM    And from a legal perspective, how muddy does it become with the issue of skin prevention – cancer prevention and whether or not the individual took the appropriate steps?

GW     Well it’s not up to the individual in an employment relationship, it’s up to the employer to provide – and most employers these days do provide the suitable equipment in terms of sunglasses and hats and long sleeve shirts and so-forth. A lot of the work that I’ve been doing is for people in the past – especially going right back – right up until the 80s, 90s and even some employers now do not provide the right protection.  But someone that’s worked in the building industry all their life and is now 60 has been exposed for a lot of unprotected sun exposure in their working past.

WM    Yes that’s true isn’t it and times have changed – we are talking about that schoolyard a little earlier how obviously – you know – the schools and the education systems have become more aware of it and provides better protection and you are saying that similar things have happened obviously.

GW     Yes – it has and it’s happened largely over the last 10 – 15 years – there’s been a lot more protection provided by employers. It’s surprising it didn’t happen a bit earlier than that with the Slip, Slop, Slap Campaign and so-forth.

WM    Yeah – that was a while ago – yeah.

GW     In the 80s and so-forth. But the last 10 years have been the time that most protection has been provided and that’s a huge improvement.

WM    Okay – 131 873 is the number with Legal Matters. If you’ve got a question for Gaius Whiffin who’s our personal injury law expert in the studio right now. 131 873. So how do you go about making a skin cancer claim and what are the points you think there are people who had suffered skin cancer who could have made a claim and probably hadn’t.

GW     Well there’s no specific time limits, the sooner the better because the evidence trail and so-forth dries up but the sooner the better – there’s no specific time limits – it’s really a matter of making sure your exposure has been mainly or the most exposure has been at the workplace and if you have – then you make a claim against the last employer to expose you to sunlight. So if you for example were in the building industry and you worked for 10 employers over your lifeline, lifetime – it’s the last one that you can claim against.

WM    That’s a very good point. I’d never thought about that process but that’s good – it could be a number of different employers but you only take the action against the one. 

GW     Only against one – that’s a particular Section that was brought into the Act. It governs up other injuries that come as a result of a gradual process such as skin cancer.

WM    So that would be the case if you had only worked for them for a couple of month’s maybe?

GW     It can be. They then have various rights to claim against previous employers but in terms of the injured – the sufferer of the skin cancer – it makes it easier for them.

WM    131 873. Now we’ve got Pat on the line for you. What’s your question for Gaius Pat? 

Caller 1 – Pat 

Pat      Oh hi there. Look I’m just enquiring, I actually work in a building and it’s an administration area and our whole window is exposed to the outside, there’s no tinting, there’s no blinds and we find a really big problem with glare – like we don’t actually face the sun, but we do get – it’s very hard to see at times – when you are looking at your computer and…… I have very fair skin – I have blue eyes so I am more prone to glare and there’s three of us that actually sit there and my question is – I have had treatment for skin cancers and laser surgery on my nose but I am proactive and I go get it checked regularly – I have a specialist appointment every year. But would that account to a skin cancer forming just from that exposure, or does it actually have to be direct contact with the sun. Like we are inside a building but the sun – it’s quite strong and the glare is quite harsh.

GW     Look, the simple answer is that it can. It’s all a question for circumstances but it can. There’s a lot of for example truck drivers in the past where again the windscreens and so-forth were not tinted in those days – there’s no air-conditioning –everything was down and there’s a lot of truck drivers that have developed skin cancer and that have been compensated for. So it depends upon the circumstances, the level of your exposure – how long you have been in this particular position. I mean the other thing you’ve got to realise is that skin cancers can take a long while to develop – so if skin cancer develops today may have actually been deposited so to speak 20, 30 or maybe even up to 40 years ago.

Pat      Right.

WM    But it certainly doesn’t seem like a very good work situation that you are in at the moment. In fact if those windows haven’t been provided with a bit more protection than that.

GW     Okay Pat.

Pat      Okay – thank you for that.

WM    Okay thank you for your call – much appreciated. Hello Robert. 

Caller 2 – Robert 

Robert                      Yes hello. I’m not actually going to talk about skin cancer but I was just wondering in general – office workers that are using computers these days in an office sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours at call centres and things like that – where do they stand? Should they have eyesight testing every 2 years or something like that?

GW     I don’t think there – there’s no specific rule in relation to how often an employer has to test and so-forth but certainly – again if — it’s a similar sort of situation – I mean skin cancer develops from being exposed to sunlight over a long period of time in your work.  If you develop vision problems and you’ve been sitting in front of the computer all day for a long period of your life working in that sort of situation, then and if the medical evidence suggests that that deterioration the eyesight is due to those focus problems then again that can be compensable in the same way the skin cancer is.

Robert           Okay – thank you.

WM    Good on you Robert – nice to hear from you. Hello – Chris.

Caller 3 – Chris 

Chris              Good afternoon. My question is simply with regard to when a new employee comes to an employer, if that employer is then the last person who may be called upon by someone such as the employee who has gone to Turner Freeman and say well the last employer is the one you essentially requested money from or recompense from or whatever it happens to be, how does that…. does that mean that ever employer has to now look at the past history of every new employee and say well wait a minute – you were out in the sun there for 30 years being a bricklayer – how do they figure it out? I’m a little confused as to how the last employer can be the one that didn’t know that for example for the last 14 weekends you have been out there without any sunscreen zipping around on the beach.

WM    Well that’s the law Chris. But I suppose the question is does that mean employers are more likely to check the history of potential new workers?

GW     Well it’s an issue – it’s certainly an issue for employers – that’s the way the law does operate – it’s not the last employer per sae. It’s the last employer to expose the worker to sunlight. So, I mean there’s a definition in the Act but that is basically what it means and yes if you’re a building company and you employ this person for you know 3 months and they’ve been in the building industry all their life your insurer might be the one that cops the claim.

WM    Thank you for your call Chris. Now Gaius just on one of these points here is to do with the compensation – what sorts of benefits are payable to someone if you have a successful claim?

GW     Well three basic benefits. The first benefit is if you need time off work – so if you are still working and a lot of people with skin cancer aren’t still working because as I said it takes a while for the skin cancers to develop but if you are still working, you need treatment and you need the skin cancer or melanoma cut out and you are off work for a week, you get paid for that time off work. You get paid for your medical costs. You can make a claim for lump sum compensation under the Act. It needs to be over a certain threshold. So if all you’ve had has had a few keratoses – the sun spots – some of the keratosis burnt off – you are not likely to get over that threshold. We are talking about people who have had life – you know – potentially life danger – life threatening conditions out of this that can actually get monetary compensation apart from you are always going to be entitled to time off work and your medical costs. 

WM    Okay – well its National Skin Cancer Action Week – so our Legal Matters – we’ve been talking personal injury and we’ve got that $100 Westfield voucher – I think – we only had the one lady caller – I can’t remember her name – that actually came on the air – but I think we will give her the prize – that wonderful voucher. Thanks for coming in Gaius.

GW     My pleasure Warren.

WM    And we’ll talk next time. Gaius Whiffin – accredited specialist in personal injury law and the partner in the Sydney office of course of Turner Freeman Lawyers. And that is it for our Legal Matters this week – and of course we will do it again the same time next Tuesday. This is Warren Moore for Chris Smith. More in just a moment including your calls – 131 873.


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