Pulmonary fibrosis is a type of interstitial lung disease, a serious condition that occurs when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred. Thickened, stiff tissue makes it extremely difficult for your lungs to work as they should.
Symptoms may come on quickly or take years to develop. Medications may slow down scarring and help your lung function. But there is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis, eventually you will develop respiratory failure.
In most types of pulmonary fibrosis, a direct cause usually can’t be found. One of the more common types is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which means there is no known cause. Even if you have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis you are still able to claim compensation for your work-related illness.
When there is a traceable cause of pulmonary fibrosis the lung disease is caused by; exposure to irritants (including cigarette smoke or animal droppings), exposure to hazardous materials, exposure to toxins like asbestos, coal dust or silica (including workers in the coal mining, stonemasonry and sandblasting industry), exposure to allergens like mould, and some medications list pulmonary fibrosis as a side-effect also.
When your immune system activates, it sends out inflammatory cells. This usually occurs when the cells are attacking bacteria or healing damaged tissues, but if your body is not sick or doesn’t have damaged tissues that need repairing, and your body sends out inflammatory cells, you may have chronic inflammation.
Diseases that are characterised by chronic inflammation include:
Over time all these diseases cause damage and scarring to the lungs, also, pulmonary fibrosis can develop over time as a secondary illness to these.
Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and last months to years.
Asbestosis is caused by the inhalation of microscopic fibres of asbestos. The disease is progressive, resulting in scarring of the lungs. When breathed in, asbestos fibres become lodged inside the lungs and can cause irreversible damage. The lungs become scarred and thickened (fibrosis), meaning it’s more difficult for oxygen to reach the bloodstream. Longer term, sufferers will become short of breath as the lungs cannot hold as much air as they previously did. At first this may only happen after physical activity, but it can eventually become a more constant issue.
Similar to asbestosis, silicosis is also a lung disease which is caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, a common mineral found in the air of mines, foundries, blasting operations, stone, clay, and glass manufacturing facilities. Over time, exposure to silica particles causes permanent lung scarring. If you suffer with silicosis, you then have an increased risk of other lung diseases, including tuberculosis (a chronic, bacterial infection that usually infects the lungs) chest infections, emphysema, kidney damage and lung cancer.
During workplace accidents many types of gases can be released into the air, such as:
These gases have a high potential to severely irritate the lungs and cause long-term scarring and damage.
Many workplaces contain radiation sources including:
At particular risk are miners, due to the types of minerals (tin, iron, and uranium) they are mining, workers are exposed to radiation from the decay of radon and uranium. This type of radiation exposure has been linked to lung cancer, lung scarring and damage.
Chronic conditions are characterised by their long lasting and persistent effects. As mentioned previously, some autoimmune diseases can, in turn, cause pulmonary fibrosis. The following conditions result in lung damage and are classified as chronic conditions:
If in the course of your employment you develop pulmonary fibrosis you have the right to access the workers compensation scheme seeking benefits under the industrial disease clause. Strict time limits apply when making a workers compensation claim. At the first signs of issues with your lungs or other respiratory complaints, you should see your doctor and outline to them your work conditions and any contributing workplace factors that are causing your symptoms.
Learn more about how you might be entitled to make a WorkcCover claim.
If you have received a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis and you need to make a workers compensation claim the following steps should be taken. Our team of experienced lawyers are very skilled in all matters of personal injury relating to workplace illnesses and diseases, be sure to speak with us before you lodge your WorkCover application. We are available to guide you through the process so you can concentrate on your medical treatments and coming to terms with your diagnosis and what it means for your future.
Your first steps before submitting your application to WorkCover is to ensure you have completed tests and have all the relevant documents together. You will need the following:
Once you have all your proof that your developed pulmonary fibrosis was due to work-related causes you should submit your application to WorkCover as soon as possible.
During the assessment phase with WorkCover, they look at individual claims and consider the following when making a decision:
If you and your employer are able to supply WorkCover with the right information straight away, you may get a decision more quickly.
WorkCover will aim to make a decision on your outcome of compensation claim within 20 business days or less. WorkCover will either accept your claim and you will receive compensation or they may reject your claim.
In either situation our team of experienced personal injury lawyers will advise your next steps, in particular if your claim is rejected, we can re-assess your claim and assist you to have your claim reviewed by the Workers Compensation Regulator.
If WorkCover accepts your claim they will notify you in writing and will outline your compensation offer. There are many options for payments dependant on if your pulmonary fibrosis claim leads a terminal condition. But generally, workers compensation claims may cover:
If your pulmonary fibrosis leads to a terminal condition or a disease that's considered to be a form of pneumoconiosis (a group of interstitial lung diseases caused by the inhalation of certain dusts and the lung tissue's reaction to the dust) you might be entitled to lump sum compensation.
Our experienced lawyers are best placed to give you the right advice when it comes to compensation and the payments you should consider for your situation. We will work for you and have your best interests in mind when we give you legal advice.
Your legal team may advise you that it’s in your best interests to make a common law claim for damages. A common law claim is designed to put you in the same or very similar financial position you would have been in had you never developed pulmonary fibrosis.
There are strict time limits and strict process to follow to bring a common law claim. You will need to be able to prove negligence or legal fault occurred to claim for damages. If your common law claim is successful, you can receive payment for the following:
In order to meet the requirements of your WorkCover claim you must file your claim within six months of your diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis. There are only a handful of circumstances where there might be an exception to the limits. If you are uncertain about your rights or the date of diagnosis, our experienced lawyers are happy to assist you.
We understand that being newly diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis is a stressful time in your life, especially if you have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and the cause is unknown to you. That is why we offer our services with our ‘No Win. No Fee. No Catch’® promise, which means there are no upfront costs and you will never be left out of pocket. Fees are calculated on the amount of work done and will be explained to you before proceeding with your claim.
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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