Mine compensation fight takes shape

With the Hazelwood mine fire inquiry well under way, law firms are gearing up to fight for compensation on behalf of Morwell residents.

It is expected the Board of Inquiry’s findings presented to the government in August, will include a decision on who was at fault and therefore liable prior to and during the mine fire. Slater and Gordon is currently gathering information and building a database of residents who believe they should be compensated for expenses incurred because of the fire and some long-term health conditions brought on specifically by the fire.

Morwell-based Slater and Gordon practice group leader of respiratory diseases Stephen Plunkett said while residents could not sue for compensation of short-term health impacts or inconvenience, costs could be reimbursed.

“Lots of people have contacted us and we keep a register of their name and what their claim may or may not be and we’re waiting on the outcome of the (inquiry),” he said.

“People should keep a note of any expenses and keep copies of receipts and things like that if it turns out that (a particular organisation is at fault).

“Some people might have lost thousands, some people only a few a hundred.”

Mr Plunkett said while there would be a head case to establish liability, each resident would have their own case to suit their needs.

He added if the fire had happened prior to 2002 when laws were changed, most residents would have claims for short-term effects such as sore eyes, breathing problems and migraines. The law now only entitles people to sue if they are more than five per cent incapacitated as a result of an incident.

“In reality most people will have gotten over their injuries as of that stage, most people won’t be able to comply with that. People with runny noses, migraines, sore eyes all would have had a small claim, but because the government caved in to the insurance companies and changed the law they now don’t,” Mr Plunkett said.

“Short-term losses and short term pain and suffering you don’t get compensation for, it’s got to be total incapacitation.”