Jim McGinty

Jim McGinty

Attorney General; Minister for Health; Electoral Affairs

    Legislation to support families of asbestos victims

    13/03/2008 12:00 AM
     

    The State Government has moved to close a legal loophole which has seen damages payouts to the families of some asbestos victims slashed by up to a third.
     

    Attorney General Jim McGinty said he would introduce amendments to the Fatal Accidents Act which would increase damages payouts for the families of people who had died from asbestos-related diseases.

     

    “In 2002, the Government supported legislative changes which helped ease the burden on asbestos victims, who had previously faced a race against time to settle their legal claim before their death and ensure their family was taken care of,” Mr McGinty said.

     

    “These changes allowed the family of someone who had died from an asbestos-related illness to continue a claim for damages after the victim died.

     

    “However since a 2005 decision by the NSW Court of Appeal, general damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life under a common law damages award to the victim are offset against any award made to the family under the Fatal Accidents Act.

     

    “This means that payments to the families of asbestos victims have been reduced by an average of $160,000 each.

     

    “Since then, the families of four Western Australian asbestos victims have seen their compensation slashed, money which would have helped ease the lives of the victim’s  spouses and children.

     

    “It has also encouraged defendants to prolong compensation cases in order to reduce liability after the death of the victim.

     

    “The new legislation will change this.”

     

    Robyn Jones lost her husband David to mesothelioma just over two years ago. David was the ninth member of his family to die from an asbestos-related disease. He lived in the asbestos-mining town of Wittenoom when he was a child.

     

    Mrs Jones, one of 31 widows whose claim is currently pending, said she worries every day about paying the bills and looking after her two teenage sons.

     

    “It is already an uphill battle to get compensation. These companies don’t need help fighting the widows and children of asbestos victims,” she said.

     

    “The Asbestos Diseases Society fought for many years to have the law changed and then that one court case in New South Wales changed everything and set a precedent that cuts our access to compensation.

     

    “It would give me and many other families enormous peace of mind if the Government could fix this.”

     

    Prior to 2002, the dependants of an asbestosis sufferer could not continue a claim for damages for pain and suffering, bodily or mental harm and the curtailment of life expectation after the victim’s death.

     

    The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions [Asbestos Diseases]) Act changed the law to allow the family of someone suffering an asbestos-related illness, to continue a claim already begun for these types of damages after the victim’s death.

     

    Minister's Office - 9422 3000