Allthough 55 nations have banned asbestos, the United States is not one of them. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there are up to 3000 different types of commercial products in use in the US today that contain asbestos, such as building materials, brake pads and fire retardant materials. This means that a do-it-yourselfer may be exposed while doing home repair around the house. Exposure can also come from unlikely and unpredictable sources. For example, asbestos fibers can be inhaled via clothing, brought home from a household member who has worked in environments contaminated by asbestos.
Clearly, everyone is at risk of asbestos-related illness under those circumstances. If you get sick, there are different options available for legal action, depending on type of illness:
Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable cancer. Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis, with most patients dying within 1 year of diagnosis.
Legal Options for Mesothelioma Victims
Mesothelioma is a life-threatening illness primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. In many instances, people are exposed to asbestos negligently, typically at the workplace where asbestos-containing products are used or were used in the past. If you’ve been exposed to the harmful mineral and in turn developed an asbestos-related disease, you have legal options available for you to consider.
The most common course for action mesothelioma victims to take is filing a mesothelioma lawsuit against the responsible party. The responsible party is generally the manufacturer or company that supplied asbestos to a job site. In some instances, employers are also responsible if they knew of the asbestos and failed to take actions to protect workers.
A mesothelioma lawsuit is filed in court just as any other personal injury case, but since mesothelioma cases are intricate, it’s important to make sure that you have everything gathered and ready to go before filing. Your attorney should be able to help you round up the evidence you’ll need for your case, which in most instances, will include:
- Past employment history, or if you’re filing on behalf of your spouse, his/her employment history.
- All medical records
- Medical expenses incurred
- Proof of asbestos at the workplace
- Proof that the defendant supplied the asbestos and/or knew of the asbestos
- Documentation of your illness, including how you’ve had it and the limitations it causes
Mesothelioma Lawsuits and Settlements
Once your attorney starts the lawsuit process, (although it may take many months while the case goes through the discovery phase), you may be offered a compensation amount to settle the case out of court. In fact, most mesothelioma lawsuits are settled before a trial starts.
Keep in mind that it’s ultimately up to you whether or not you want to settle the case or take it to court. The benefits of a settlement is that your case is usually resolved faster, you have a guarantee that you’ll get compensation, and you won’t have to go to trial. On the other hand, compensation is usually lower if you settle.
Mesothelioma Lawsuits and Trials
Your mesothelioma lawsuit will go to trial if you or the defendant decide not to settle beforehand. During a trial, all the evidence in your case is presented, and the defense has the opportunity to rebuke it. There are no guarantees that you’ll win your lawsuit if it goes to trial, and it will take longer when compared to settlements, as mentioned earlier.
However, there are a few positive benefits to trials. Plaintiffs generally receive a higher amount of compensation and the guilty party is exposed for their wrongdoings. While settlements are generally disclosed, trial information is open to the public.
Mesothelioma Trust Funds
Mesothelioma trust funds are set up by companies that had and continue to have a large amount of asbestos-related lawsuits filed against them. Instead of fighting each case in court or trying to negotiate settlement amounts for each case, these companies set up trust funds and add in a certain amount of money.
The amount of money in each trust fund gets will depend each particular company. For instance, while one company may fund the trust with $80 million, another company may fund their trust with $150 million. The trust fund amounts are disbursed to people who worked for the companies and developed asbestos-related illnesses.
The amount you’ll receive from a trust fund depends on your illness, the stage of your mesothelioma cancer (or any other asbestos-related illness you may have), how long you’ve had the illness, your age, current health, and expenses incurred for medical treatment.
If your health problems are severe, you may qualify for an expedited review, which can help you get your money faster. If you don’t meet the mandated medical requirements for the trust fund, you can still file an individual review, which will take longer, but still gives you the opportunity to get compensation for your illness.
As aforementioned, mesothelioma is a life-threatening disease caused primarily by asbestos exposure. When asbestos enter the body, usually by inhalation or ingestion, it’s almost impossible to get rid of all of the fibers.
Asbestos fibers are small, tiny, colorless, odorless, and undetectable. When these fibers remain in the body for a long period of time, they begin to irritate the linings of the major organs, including the lungs’ lining, abdominal lining, or the heart lining.
Over time, these tiny fibers irritate the body’s system so much that organ linings become cancerous. The longer the cancerous tumors remain, the harder it becomes to treat. The cancer starts to metastasize and attack other parts of the body.
Although being at a job site that used asbestos-containing products remains the top cause of mesothelioma, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that you can also be exposed to asbestos via:
- Drinking asbestos fibers present in water (this generally happens with old pipes that were built with asbestos begin to crack and rust)
- Natural asbestos mines (if you live near one)
- Second-hand exposure
- Exposure from old appliances made with asbestos
- Older homes that were built with asbestos-containing products
If you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos, it’s important to get medical check-ups on a regular basis. It’s also important to inform your physician that you may have been exposed to asbestos. The sooner you can start treatment for an asbestos-related illness, the better your chance are of having successful treatments.
If you live in the US, and have asbestosis, an asbestosis lawsuit can help you recover the cost of medical bills, lost wages and other costs. Some lawsuits also award punitive damages, which punishes the defendant. If you have an asbestosis claim, you can also include your family or loved ones.
If proceeding, asbestosis attorneys will try to determine who was responsible for the asbestos exposure at different places by obtaining information from work history records, medical reports, co-worker interviews, etc. They will then attempt to pinpoint who was responsible for your asbestos exposure. Keep in mind that the statute of limitations varies from state to state.
People with occupational asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis may also qualify for financial help, including medical payments, under state worker’s compensation laws. Whichever route you take, sifting through complex asbestosis legal issues requires an experienced asbestosis attorney.
Medical researchers first made a probable causal relationship between exposure to asbestos and lung cancer in 1935. Seven years later, a member of the National Cancer Institute (US) confirmed asbestos as a cause of lung cancer. Studies then continued to show the cause-effect relationship of asbestos and lung cancer. In 1986, OSHA proclaimed lung cancer as the greatest risk for Americans who worked with asbestos.
Like mesothelioma, another asbestos-related cancer, lung cancer associated with asbestos is typically diagnosed at a late stage of development because of the long latency period of development and the onset of symptoms.
Currently it is more difficult to win grand settlements for asbestos-related lung cancer, compared to mesothelioma. But a lawsuit could help you recover cost of medical bills, lost wages and other costs. You may qualify for financial help, including medical payments, under state worker’s compensation laws for victims of industrial disease.