Silicosis Compensation Claims

Silicosis is a group of occupational lung diseases caused by breathing in silica dust. Silicosis was very common in Australia in the 1940s to 1960s, but improved work practices helped to lessen the number of people suffering with this type of lung disease. However, there has been a resurgence of workers who develop silicosis again, in particular people working with and around engineered stone – especially cutting engineered stone.

The comeback of silicosis can be put down to poor understanding of the risks involved in working with products that contain silica and a lack of adherence to safety regulations and surveillance requirements.

If you or someone you know has been exposed to silica dust it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of silicosis and seek urgent medical care, the most important step is to not ignore the signs you are unwell.

If you are a high risk candidate of silica exposure then it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible, we can assist you to make silicosis compensation claims, ensuring you and your family have the means to tackle your diagnosis and living with silicosis.

Learn more about how you might be entitled to make a WorkcCover claim.

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Common "At-Risk" Jobs for Exposure to Silica Dust:

If you work in any of these described industries or workplaces, then you may have been exposed to prolonged periods of silica dust and may be having respiratory issues. If you have been exposed you should make legal enquiries into silicosis claims to assist you through your diagnosis or claim compensation if you are no longer able to work.

Miners are at high risk of developing silicosis due to the nature of work undertaken like drilling and mining into the ground and working underground.
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Stonemasons are particularly at higher risk of developing silicosis as a result of their roles in cutting, grinding and polishing engineered stone products which have very high levels of silica.
Demolition and construction workers undertaking excavation of the ground, or demolishing buildings which may contain materials with high levels of silica, are at risk of developing silicosis lung damage.
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Road Repair
Road repair workers may also have to undertake work which requires them to disturb ground surfaces, cut material which may contain silica and work in environments which contain silica.
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Steel Industry
Workers in foundries are generally making steel castings for various reasons. As castings are made or cleaned, silica dust is created and becomes a risk.
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Plaster or Drywall Installation
These workers may be susceptible to exposure to airborne plaster dust, which contains small amounts of silica. Prolonged exposure to plaster dust can cause silicosis to develop.
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Glass Manufacturing
Activities such as handling, mixing and transporting raw materials can cause silica to be breathed in if correct protective gear is not worn. The raw materials are usually transported to the glass furnace where the melting process occurs.
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This industry is particularly hazardous because the initial fracturing of silica particles tends to create dust with higher concentrations of silica. Inhalation of respirable crystalline silica dust over time can cause lung diseases such as silicosis and lung cancer.
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This industry can include many different materials. Silica occurs in many types of stone and in concrete, including roof tiles and slate. In dust form it will be released during cutting or grinding, and when cleaning up work areas.
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Farm workers can be at risk of silica due to airborne dust particles including; dusts, fumes, smokes or mists. Most harmful are grain dusts, they can be associated with adverse respiratory health effects due to silica particles.
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Types of Silicosis Lung Disease Claims
There are different types of silicosis lung disease that you should be aware of. Your GP and specialist team will be able to diagnose which type you may have. They include:

- Simple Silicosis - which includes: Chronic Silicosis, Accelerated Silicosis, Acute Silicosis

- Complicated Silicosis / Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF).

The main symptoms of all silicosis types are shortness of breath after exercising, chest pain, a harsh dry cough and tiredness. But in the early stages of silicosis, there may be no symptoms at all. The symptoms become severe as the condition gets worse. Over time, you might find simple activities such as walking or climbing stairs difficult.
"Simple" Silicosis
Simple silicosis is the most common type of silicosis; it develops after at least 5 to 10 years of silica exposure. Simple silicosis results in many small white spots or nodules that appear throughout the lungs, and can only be seen on a chest X-ray or CT scan. There are three types of simple silicosis:
Chronic Silicosis – the most common form of silicosis, where fibrosis occurs more slowly over 10–30 years after first being exposed.Accelerated Silicosis – is also associated with high exposure to silica dust (particularly people working with engineered stone products), where there is a rapid increase of scarring in the lung (fibrosis) within 10 years of first exposure.Acute Silicosis – develops within weeks or months of heavy exposure to silica dust.

No matter what type of silicosis you are suffering with, all affect you in the same way. The difference is how long it takes for your lungs to start being affected and not working correctly.

Complicated Silicosis / Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF)
You will be diagnosed with complicated silicosis when large fibrotic masses are found in the upper lung zones. The scarring that occurs to the lungs is referred to as PMF. In general, the more scarring and the more widespread it is, the more trouble you will have breathing, you will lose your lung capacity and this causes issues for how they expand and contract with each breath.

PMF affects everyone differently. Each person has a unique, individual experience with the condition. Some people progress rapidly while others progress slowly.
What Evidence is Required to Make a Silicosis Workers Compensation Claim?
If you have been exposed to silica during the course of your employment in Queensland you may be entitled to make two silicosis claim types:
- Statutory claim with WorkCover Queensland
- Common law claim against your employer and/or the manufacturers/suppliers of the products you were exposed.

Having an experienced lawyer on your side will ensure that you will have access to the best compensation option for you. Successful silicosis claims will depend on many things including which form of silicosis you have been diagnosed with, the severity of your condition, how long you have been living with the disease, whether you suffer from any lung function impairment, your life expectancy, your age, the extent of future treatment options (lung lavages or lung transplants may be required in certain cases) and availability of witnesses to confirm your exposure. All of these factors will assist to claim compensation for your work-related illness.

Silicosis claims require you to:

- Obtain a Certificate of Capacity from your doctor with a provisional diagnosis of silicosis
- Complete a workers compensation claim form
- Give the claim form, Certificate of Capacity and medical test results to your employer. Your employer must forward the claim to their insurer within five days.

Due to the nature of silicosis claims and how sick you may be, it is in your best interests to seek legal representation to assist with your claim, throughout the workers compensation process.
Is There a Time Limit for Making a Silicosis Workers Compensation Claim?
If you have been diagnosed with silicosis it is important to understand the time limits if you wish to claim workers compensation, you usually have six months from the date of diagnosis to lodge your statutory claim with WorkCover.

There are no time limitation periods in which to bring a common law claim for silicosis in Queensland. However, very strict time limits may apply to other conditions caused by silica exposure including auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma.

Following diagnosis, you should speak with one of our experienced lawyers, they will be able to let you know your best chances for settlement, ensuring you receive the required compensation to live a comfortable life and take care of your family.
How Long Do Silicosis Settlements Usually Take?
How long your claim takes to complete will depend on your specific circumstances – every claim is so different. If your diagnosis is terminal, there may be options to fast track any claim you make. Contact our experienced lawyers for advice specific to your situation, we will ensure your legal rights are protected every step of the way.
What Are The Average Payouts For Silicosis?
Every claim for silicosis compensation is different and everyone’s individual circumstances are varied. Giving a round figure for payouts is near impossible, the value of your claim depends on the type of silicosis you have been diagnosed with.

Simple silicosis that appears to be stable and is not causing any significant lung impairments may only require ongoing medical monitoring. Any compensation from WorkCover is likely to be modest and particularly in circumstances where the condition is not causing any permanent impairment. You may have to change employment though as any ongoing work with dust present will cause you more serious issues.

If you are not able to return to your usual workplace and job you will be able to access a common law claim. Significant damages are able to be claimed for past and future economic loss and past and future loss of superannuation entitlements.

However, if you have any of the following more severe silicosis types; Acute Silicosis / Accelerated Silicosis / Progressive massive fibrosis (PMF) / Lung Cancer you will have significant lung damage and a higher level of permanent impairment.

Due to the nature of these types of silicosis your life .expectancy may be reduced and you may require very specific and significant medical treatments and therapies – more commonly you may require a lung transplant.Due to the nature of this diagnosis compensation payouts for severe silicosis types is substantial. Also bear in mind that significant compensation is also available for dependants of persons who have passed away from silicosis.

No amount of compensation can replace your life expectancy, but ensuring your loved ones are taken care of can give you piece of mind through this difficult period
Can I Represent Myself When Making a Silicosis Workers Compensation Claim?
Yes you can represent yourself when making a silicosis claim. But you risk missing important steps or elements in the legal process and you may miss out on vital compensation you require to assist with your life going forward. Successfully representing yourself will likely involve a thorough understanding of the law, legal services, your legal rights and entitlements, and above all the time and energy to pursue the claim

.Most people making a silicosis compensation claim choose not to act for themselves due to the nature of their illness, possible short life expectancy due to your lung condition and the complex nature of the complete legal process.
How Much Does it Cost to Lodge a Silicosis Claim?
We offer a ‘No Win. No Fee. No Catch’® promise when you make a silicosis compensation claim, which means there are no upfront legal costs and you will never be left out of pocket. Legal costs and fees are calculated on the amount of work done and will be explained to you in full before the matter is opened and before you sign any kind of agreement.
Lodge A "No Win No Fee" Claim
If you suffer injuries while at work, you don't have to worry about the whole process of making your claim or the legal fees involved. Here at Smith's Lawyers, we offer free consultation services for injured workers looking to kickstart their claims. As mentioned before, we also have a no-win no fee, no catch policy.
Get in touch with us to give yourself the best opportunity to receive the maximum compensation possible for your claim.
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