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FAQs – asbestos illness claims

Frequently asked questions

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a heat-resistant natural mineral fibre that was commonly used in fire-proofing and insulation products between the 1940s and 1985.

You may have heard it referred to as ‘AC Sheeting’, or perhaps ‘fibro’. Other uses for the material included roofing, motor vehicle parts and pipe lagging. It was also woven into fabric, and mats and some carpets.

Today, it has been largely banned from use in building products, because it has been proven that inhaling asbestos fibres can cause serious illnesses and diseases, including lung cancer.

Although it has been banned from use as a building material, its extensive use before 1985 ensures that asbestos will be part of thousands of Australian lives for many years to come; it is predicted that the number of asbestos sufferers will peak only in 2020.

Could I have been exposed to asbestos?

It can take as long as 40 years for a person to begin to suffer the side effects of being exposed to asbestos.

To date, most of those that suffer from an asbestos-related disease have been exposed through their previous work in industries such as:

  • Mining
  • Building-related trades (carpenters, plumbers, electricians)
  • Asbestos insulation workers
  • Firefighters
  • Military personnel

That said, it is important to remember that asbestos-related illnesses don’t just come from working in an industry that was exposed to the product; it can be the result of fibres that come from someone else’s work clothes, or who renovated or demolished a house or shed clad with fibro-cement sheeting.

In what is becoming known as the ‘Third Wave’, today more and more people appear to have been exposed to asbestos via more everyday, incidental work, such as home renovations or housework.

This new wave of sufferers is also younger than ever before; people in their 30s and 40s are now reporting illnesses as a result of asbestos exposure.

Do I have a claim?

Exposure alone doesn’t necessarily warrant a claim for compensation.

Diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness is the first, and most crucial step.

If this has occurred, rest assured you can still make a claim if:

  • the exposure was many years ago
  • you no longer work at the place where you were exposed
  • you think exposure may have occurred in different workplaces
  • where you worked when exposure occurred has now closed, or gone out of business
  • you think the exposure occurred at home, rather than a workplace
  • you are not sure how or when you were exposed
  • you once, or still do, smoke
  • you have moved from the location where the exposure was likely to have happened.

Maddens Lawyers has the capacity and expertise to investigate and identify where it is likely your exposure occurred. You don’t need to know details like this in order to make a successful claim.

What are asbestos-related diseases?


This is a type of cancer that is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, although it can be decades between when a person is exposed and when the symptoms arise. Cells in the lungs to produce fluid, which builds up and presses on the lungs which causes:

  • shortness of breath
  • pain in the shoulder, arm and chest areas
  • difficulty swallowing.

Depending on the location of the cancer, sufferers can also experience:

  • stomach pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • swollen abdomen
  • lung cancer.

Asbestos can also cause lung cancer. The incidence of this diagnosis is higher for those who have, or continue to, smoke. That said, the fact one smoked may not prevent them from making a compensation claim if it can be proven the asbestos exposure exacerbated their lung cancer.


Asbestosis is a disease caused by the scarring of the lung tissue as a result of asbestos fibres inhaled and becoming embedded in a person’s lungs.

This typically restricts breathing, meaning that the disperson of oxygen through the body is reduced, as well as the expulsion of carbon dioxide. This results in not only shortness of breath, but also lethargy and reduced immunity from other illnesses.

In some cases, asbestosis can develop into mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Therefore, it is important to be in contact with medical and legal professionals if you develop this condition, or if you existing condition deteriorates.

How do I make a claim for asbestos compensation?

A good first step is to speak to an experienced lawyer about how you may have been exposed to asbestos.

From here, the likely process will include:

  • Providing authority to your lawyer to access your medical records
  • Providing your lawyer with copies of any relevant paperwork, diary entries or documentation of illnesses
  • Seeking medical advice, if you haven’t already
  • Ensuring your lawyer knows about any prior offers of compensation you may have had – whether you accepted them or not
How much money can be awarded?

That will always depend on your circumstances. There are maximum amounts payable, dependingon your illness and its impact on your day-to-day life.

Maddens Lawyers’ Accredited Specialist Gary Foster will be able to discuss your personal situation with you and provide advice on what you may be entitled to.

We pride ourselves on securing compensation that fairly and accurately covers a clients’ medical costs and pain and suffering.