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Terminally ill Queenslanders at risk of losing compensation if they don’t ‘die faster’

As a teenager, Shine Lawyers client Steve Dawson was looking to earn a little extra pocket money when he picked up a job working casually at a Mount Isa hardware store.

His duties involved helping around the store, doing odd jobs and labouring tasks. Little did Steve know that the four shifts he worked there were enough to change the course of his life for years to come.

Unbeknown to Steve, whilst working at the hardware store, he was directly exposed to asbestos. Fast forward 50 years later, Steve’s future has been turned on its head, now diagnosed with mesothelioma and has been given a maximum of five years to live.

WorkCover Queensland accepted that his condition was both terminal and caused by his employment at the store and provided him a lump sum compensation payment.

This has allowed him to recoup his medical expenses and buy a home for him and his wife Sandra.

“All the money in the world isn’t going to save me but if I can set my wife up pretty good, I’ll be happy,” Mr Dawson said.

Steve and Sandra Dawson Shine Lawyers Client, Steve Dawson and his wife Sandra

But soon, this could all change for people like Steve and Sandra as the Queensland Office of Industrial Relations is proposing to change the definition of “terminal illness” under the Personal Injuries Processing Act 2002.

This change in legislation would set a time frame around when a terminally ill person needs to die to determine whether they are eligible to receive compensation. There are currently no time periods in place, and the Office of Industrial Relations estimates this change would save the government up to $84 million in compensation payments per year.

For people like Steve, this change would not only significantly impact their quality of life but impact the futures of the ones that financially depend on them. It would see terminally ill Queenslanders, who are already struggling with the weight of their diagnosis and managing pain daily, put under immense financial pressure and emotional stress.

Instead of spending their final years enjoying the precious time they have with loved ones, they’ll be left worrying about how their family is going to make ends meet while they’re dying and when they’re gone.

Kathryn Townsend who is the Shine Lawyers Practice Leader for the dust diseases and litigation practice, says nobody should be made to feel they need to ‘die faster’ to be eligible for help and compensation.

“It is absolutely disgraceful to see the government try to take compensation away from workers and their families who are at their lowest ebb,” Ms Townsend said.

“They can’t breathe, they can’t move, they struggle to care for themselves and WorkCover is telling them you need to die faster if you want to access these payments because it’s too expensive for us to compensate you properly,” she said.

Shine Lawyers are calling on the Office of Industrial Relations to rule out the change and to consult widely to find an alternative solution to WorkCover Queensland’s alleged financial challenges.

If you or someone you know is suffering a dust-related disease or symptoms, please contact our expert team today to find out if you have a claim for compensation.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: May 27, 2022.

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