New law will help asbestos victims avoid legal red tape

10 March 2015
Leading asbestos diseases law firm Maurice Blackburn has welcomed a new law that will ensure people suffering asbestos-related diseases will avoid needless red tape and delays in their fight for compensation.

Under the Wrongs Amendment (Asbestos Related Claims) Bill, which was given the Royal Assent today, people with asbestos-related diseases are automatically considered to have a 'significant injury' for their legal claim.

The bill, which covers asbestos injuries sustained outside of work, will exempt victims from having to formally certify they have a significant injury – a process that can take many months – and will enshrine a previously accepted practice into law.

Jane McDermott, a principal in the asbestos and dust diseases practice at Maurice Blackburn, said the new law would provide relief for people whose lives had been devastated by asbestos-related diseases.

“Asbestos victims should not be required to go through unnecessary red tape to prove they have a significant injury when they often have just months to live,” Ms McDermott said. “This bill restores common sense to asbestos compensation claims that will help to streamline the process and prevent further stress and delays.”

Kelly Muir’s husband Lea, who died in December 2013 from asbestosis, was exposed to asbestos while growing up near the Wunderlich factory in Sunshine North. She said the new law would remove a legal hurdle for asbestos victims and their families.

“Anything that can make the legal process simpler for people seeking comfort, support or compensation is a good thing,” she said.

Previously, it was automatically accepted that asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, asbestos-induced carcinoma and asbestos-related pleural diseases were significant injuries, which are defined in the Wrongs Act as greater than 5 per cent impairment for physical injuries.

But in June last year, the Victorian Supreme Court decided in Multari v Amaca that plaintiffs with an asbestos-related condition had to certify they had a 'significant injury'. Maurice Blackburn is representing the Multari family.

In response to the Multari decision, the previous government introduced regulations in October 2014 that exempted people with asbestos-related claims from needing to prove their significant injury – but the regulations only applied for claims from that date. The new bill will apply retrospectively to all asbestos-related claims that are still to be finalised.

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