Pneumoconiosis is called an occupational lung disease because you're only likely to encounter the causative agents of the disease in your workplace. This disease primarily affects industrial workers, construction workers, and coal miners, and it causes major health issues.
Sadly, this disease has no treatment, and if you contract it, the health of your lungs deteriorates and is irreversible. What's more, it takes several years before the symptoms begin manifesting, and by then, your health is already impaired.
If you are diagnosed with this disease and believe your illness was due to your working environment, you may be eligible to make a compensation claim. Enlisting the services of a compensation lawyer for expert advice will come in handy here. This article will discuss all that relates to pneumoconiosis claims and much more.
Learn more about how you might be entitled to make a workers compensation claim.
Pneumoconiosis is a range of lung diseases caused by breathing in and retaining certain types of dust particles that cause scar tissue to develop in your lungs. These particles include silica dust, coal dust, diacetyl dust, asbestos fibres, and others.
Pneumoconiosis has a long latency period. It develops over many years, meaning there can often be many years between exposure to the hazardous particles and the onset of symptoms. People who suffer from this disease can experience the most common symptoms of pneumoconiosis like severe pain, breathing difficulties, and reduced ability to carry out even the most basic tasks.
Other symptoms of pneumoconiosis include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, and in severe cases, heart failure. Because dust particles can be so hazardous, occupational safety is a must.
Employers are legally required to protect workers from exposure to these particles. There are different types of pneumoconiosis depending on the type of dust inhaled. Simple pneumoconiosis usually results in a small amount of scar tissue which can appear on a chest x-ray.
Read below to learn what the main causes of pneumoconiosis are.
'Coal workers pneumoconiosis', commonly known as 'the black lung,' is a form of pneumoconiosis caused by inhaling dust particles from coal, graphite, and carbon black. Naturally, coal mining workers are at highest risk with pneumoconiosis, and just like silicosis, the disease causes significant fibrosis (the creation of thicker tissue as a result of injury in the lungs).
Others at high risk of coal dust exposure include graphite miners, and manufacturers of synthetic graphite, lamp black, or carbon black.
Asbestos is a group of irritating fibrous minerals mined from underground and used to manufacture fireproof materials, such as:
Workers with the highest exposure to these fibres include:
Signs of asbestosis often do not develop for 20 years or even more after a person is first exposed to asbestos dust.
Silica dust is also a causative agent to pneumoconiosis, especially if it's in the form of quartz found in sandstone, sand, some clays, granite, and other ores. Being exposed to and inhaling silica dust causes a type of pneumoconiosis called silicosis.
Workers with the highest risk of exposure and who may be inhaling silica dust in huge amounts include:
Silicosis can cause progressive massive fibrosis in the lung tissue leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Diacetyl is the compound used to give movie popcorn its buttery flavour, amongst other things. Being exposed to this compound in industrial levels, is another possible cause of pneumoconiosis, which is also known as 'popcorn lung.' Diacetyl is safe to ingest. However, inhalation of diacetyl dust may cause lung inflammation and even permanent lung damage.
If you've worked in any of the high-risk industries mentioned above and develop pneumoconiosis symptoms like shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and severe pain in the lungs, the first thing to do would be to speak to your treating doctor and get a professional diagnosis.
You should do this before initiating any claims. If you are diagnosed with the disease, the chances are high that you contracted it while working. A professional diagnosis is useful because it can help demonstrate the link between the symptoms and the cause of the disease.
So, to answer the question, yes. You are eligible for a pneumoconiosis compensation claim if you contracted the disease due to poor occupational safety. Workers' compensation claims support you if it's demonstrated that the pneumoconiosis disease you're suffering from results from exposure to harmful dust particles at the workplace.
All employers must care for their employees. This means they have to do their best to ensure a risk-free work environment. This includes carrying out risk assessments in the workplace, providing safety equipment to workers, arranging for medical checks, and training employees on safe work practices.
If you develop the disease due to a lack of adequate protection from the toxic dust, your employer may be held liable for the negligence of duty of care under compensation law. You may then be entitled to commence a Common Law claim for damages following the closure of your claim with WorkCover Queensland.
The biggest obstacle to seeking compensation for pneumoconiosis is how long it takes for the symptoms to appear. When the symptoms develop and the diagnosis is confirmed, some companies may have relocated or shut down. This can delay and complicate the process. However, it isn't impossible.
The legal process for lodging a claim for a pneumoconiosis disease can be complex and obtaining the right evidence to ensure the claim is accepted is critical.
As such, we recommend you speak to one of our experienced compensation lawyers which will ensure your claim to be lodged correctly, under our No Win, No Fee, No Catch® promise.
However, in in order to lodge a claim for a pneumoconiosis disease with WorkCover Queensland, you need to be diagnosed with a pneumoconiosis disease and have a work capacity certificate from your doctor confirming this.
When completing and submitting your claim form to WorkCover Queensland, you will be required to provide important details like the nature of the disease, where and how it occurred, details surrounding it, medical treatment required, and more.
On receipt of a completed claim form, WorkCover Queensland will assess your claim. Once your application has been successfully lodged with WorkCover Queensland, they will aim to make a decision within 20 days or less. If further information is required for WorkCover Queensland to reach its decision, you will be notified.
It is likely that WorkCover Queensland will send you to an independent or a specialist team of medical practitioners to evaluate your condition. The practitioner will fill out a medical report and may even request chest X-ray scans to assess the extent of the disease in your lungs.
After the assessment, WorkCover will determine whether to accept that your pneumoconiosis disease is related to your employment. If it is accepted, WorkCover Queensland will be required to pay for any treatment or time off work you may need until your injury is considered to be stable and stationary.
Once your pneumoconiosis disease is considered stable, WorkCover Queensland ill organise an assessment to determine the extent or degree of impairment you have suffered as a result of your pneumoconiosis disease. This is referred to as the degree of permanent impairment (DPI). Once your DPI has been determined, WorkCover Queensland will provide you with a Notice of Assessment and an offer of a lump sum for your permanent impairment.
The amount received for pneumoconiosis disease claims is dependant on the severity of the impairment suffered.
You can agree or disagree with the outcome, in which case you can always appeal the decision. This is the same case if your claim is denied.
While we would recommend seeking advice from an experienced compensation lawyer, only you can decide if the lump sum offer of compensation is sufficient to meet your future needs, when deciding to accept the lump sum compensation offer or pursue a Common Law claim for damages.
If your impairment as a result of your pneumoconiosis disease has been assessed by a medical specialist as having a DPI of 20% or more, you can both accept the lump sum compensation and pursue a Common Law claim for damages.
However, if your impairment as a result of your pneumoconiosis disease has been assessed by a medical specialist as having a DPI of less than 20%, you can either accept the lump sum compensation offer or pursue a Common Law claim for damages. You cannot do both and once you make that decision, you are unable to change it.
In making your decision, it is important to take into consideration the extent of the symptoms you suffer, the degree of permanent impairment you have, if you require ongoing medical treatment and how much your impairment affects your life.
For these purposes, it is important to note that generally speaking, WorkCover Queensland does not pay for any treatment you may need after a lump sum offer of compensation is made. As such, you will need to fund any future treatment with either your lump sum payment or through a Common Law claim for damages.
You should consider making a Common Law claim for damages if you believe your pneumoconiosis disease is a direct result of your employer being negligent.
If you don’t agree with the assessment or your offer provided by WorkCover Queensland, you can also:
The MAT's decision is final and you can't take any further action from this point.
In Queensland, there are strict time limits for making claims for compensation for personal injuries.
Generally, you have three years from the time the injury occurred for most compensation claims unless you were under 18 when the injury occurred.
There are some exceptions to this, which may apply and we recommend you speak to an experienced compensation lawyer who understands these time limits so you don't have to second guess yourself.
Seeking legal advice as soon as you can may determine how much compensation you receive with minimal legal costs to yourself. We will ensure that your legal rights are protected and you have access to your full entitlements for your personal injury claim.
As with pursuing any legal action, there are costs involved in bringing a personal injury claim for a pneumoconiosis injury. It is important to understand that there will be professional fees to cover work carried out by your solicitor in investigating your claim, providing legal advice and representing you.
We offer a ‘No Win. No Fee. No Catch’® promise, which means there are no upfront costs and you will never be left out of pocket. In the unlikely event that your case goes to court, and you are unsuccessful, we'll cover the costs - so you won't pay a cent to us or anyone else.
Legal fees are calculated on the amount of work done and will be explained to you in full before your claim for compensation is started and before you sign any kind of agreement.
However, it is important to keep in mind that in Queensland, the charging of professional legal fees in speculative personal injuries matters is regulated and there is a 50/50 rule which caps the fees a law practice can charge in these matters.
This rule states that law is practice is entitled to charge a client no more than half the amount to which they’re entitled to under a judgement or settlement, after deducting certain expenses a client is required to pay, including disbursements.
Disbursements are the costs incurred by a legal firm in pursuing your claim. These include report fees, investigations, court filing fees and barristers fees if your case ends up going to court.
If you suffer injuries whilst at work, and you are looking for further information in terms of making a claim. Here at Smith's Lawyers, we offer a free consultation for injured people looking to seek compensation. As mentioned before, we also have a "No Win. No Fee. No Catch." policy, which means you will never be out of pocket.
Get in touch with us today to give yourself the best opportunity to understand your rights.
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