Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Asbestos refers to a group of fibrous minerals that were once commonly used in many building materials. Tragically, asbestos also causes many deadly diseases and conditions, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and small cell lung cancer. After many lawsuits, a trust fund was established to assist victims of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos and asbestos-containing materials are responsible for causing asbestos-related diseases around the world. Two of the most dangerous forms of asbestos-related diseases are mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos and mesothelioma claims have been at the center of ongoing litigation for over four decades. If you may have been exposed to asbestos, please contact a local attorney to explore your legal options.
Asbestos has been used in thousands of products for more than a century because it is highly versatile, abundant, and relatively cheap. Since asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, it requires no manufacturing. Instead, asbestos only has to be mined, crushed, and added to products during the manufacturing process.
Prior to the 1970s, when asbestos-containing materials were banned for use in the United States, asbestos fibers were commonly found in the following materials:
- Roofing materials
- Brake linings
- Vinyl floor covering
- Cork boards
- Ceiling tiles
- Fireproofing materials
Find a complete list of asbestos-containing products.
Though asbestos exposure is known to cause a range of asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis, the most dangerous is considered to be mesothelioma. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically do not develop until decades after asbestos exposure occurred, limiting available treatment options.
Workers who developed mesothelioma after years of asbestos exposure began filing lawsuits against companies that negligently exposed employees to asbestos fibers. If you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma, you may be able to hold the party responsible for asbestos exposure accountable for their actions.
Who Can File a Lawsuit?
Although medical evidence was brought to light in the 1930s and 1940s linking asbestos exposure to lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, asbestos mining persisted and manufacturers continued to produce asbestos-laden products. People who were harmed as a result of asbestos manufacturers' negligence and family members of individuals who have died from an asbestos-related disease have the right to bring legal action against those responsible.
Who is Affected by Asbestos Exposure
Exposure to asbestos typically falls under two main categories:
Occupational: This type of asbestos exposure occurs in people with high-risk jobs, including asbestos miners, individuals who were involved in the manufacture of asbestos products (such as roofing materials, paints, plastics, heat-resistant fabrics, and ceiling and floor tiles), and those whose work involves the use of these hazardous goods.
Non-occupational: Even people who were not directly involved in the manufacture or installation of asbestos products could be at risk. Family members of tradesmen who work in asbestos-related industries may be exposed to harmful fibers tracked into the home on shoes, clothing, hair, and skin. Although it has been banned in the United States and the United Kingdom, asbestos still exists in many homes and places of business. Individuals who work or live in a building that contains asbestos products may be completely unaware of their risk.
Determining Who is Responsible
It is a mesothelioma attorney's responsibility to find out how his or her client was exposed to asbestos and determine which party, or parties, to sue. Past targets of asbestos lawsuits have included the following:
- Asbestos installers
- Construction companies
- Leasing agents
- Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products
- Mining companies
Hire an Attorney
Currently, more than 200,000 asbestos litigation cases are in court and 50,000 new asbestos lawsuits are expected to be filed each year. Asbestos products have not been used in construction for many years. However, experienced mesothelioma lawyers understand that this is a disease that can quietly develop over decades. A worker might have been exposed to asbestos as long as thirty or forty years ago only to be recently diagnosed with mesothelioma. And by this time it is usually too late.
Despite a large and growing number of asbestos lawsuits and cases being filed with mesothelioma lawyers across the nation, there are relatively few mesothelioma lawsuits filed when compared to this number. No more than about 2,500 mesothelioma lawsuits are filed each year. In fact, mesothelioma law and settlements comprise a fraction of the litigation surrounding asbestos law. While other asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis and other more minor forms of asbestos injury could merit an asbestos settlement, the most severe form of asbestos injury is mesothelioma. It is also the rarest type of asbestos injuries.
The Future of Asbestos and Mesothelioma Law
Legislation has been written that could alter asbestos and mesothelioma law by threatening the existence of all asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits and subsequent settlements. This is because the current and potential financial liability that the asbestos industry and related companies are facing is enough to bankrupt many large, and otherwise successful, corporations. For the plaintiff suffering from debilitating asbestos diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma, this means that time is likely running out if they wish to file an asbestos case or mesothelioma lawsuit.
Consult a Mesothelioma Attorney as Soon as Possible
For those with a viable mesothelioma case, there may be substantial compensation available if they act quickly to contact a mesothelioma lawyer who is proficient in asbestos law and proving asbestos exposure. Many times, mesothelioma asbestos lawsuits end up in a mesothelioma settlement without ever going to trial. This is usually the best-case scenario for the plaintiff in a mesothelioma case. Since the only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos, once exposure is proven, there is little the defendant can do to argue their position.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations refers to the maximum period of time within which a claim must be filed. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state and depend on a variety of factors, including the type of injury or offense and the particulars of the case. Because valuable evidence can be misplaced or corrupted and testimony from witnesses may become more unreliable over the years, statutes of limitations were designed to protect defendants from fraudulent claims. After the deadline to file a claim passes, the opportunity to sue the parties responsible for one's injury may be lost forever.
When Does the Statute of Limitations Start?
The statutes of limitations for mesothelioma claims often differ from those for other types of personal injury claims. A personal injury claim generally must be filed within a fixed time period that begins at the date when the accident or injury occurred, although there are some notable exceptions. On the other hand, the statutes of limitations for mesothelioma claims typically start when a person is diagnosed.
The difference in the statutes of limitations for mesothelioma claims, and other toxic and chemical exposure lawsuits, is due to the nature of the illness. Mesothelioma, as well as other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, may not appear until two or more decades after the exposure occurred. Once diagnosed, a victim of asbestos exposure may have one to three years to file a claim, depending on their state.
Also known as causation, proof of fault in a mesothelioma lawsuit requires that the plaintiff proves that exposure to asbestos caused his or her illness and that the defendant both was aware, or should have been aware, of the existence of an asbestos-related hazard and failed to implement protective measures. Thus, it is in the plaintiff's best interests to hire an attorney with a solid background in asbestos law.
How Can a Mesothelioma Attorney Help?
Although asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, it can be difficult to prove that one was exposed. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer has the knowledge and the resources necessary to investigate and compile a strong legal case. In the instance that a settlement cannot be reached, a skilled mesothelioma attorney can aggressively argue a victim's case in court.
How Can I Strengthen My Case?
A good mesothelioma attorney will do everything in his or her power to ensure that you receive the asbestos settlement or verdict you deserve. However, your involvement in the process should not be underestimated. Steps you can take that may help you in your case against the party responsible for your illness include the following:
Gather documentation: You can help your lawyer find out how you or your loved one was exposed to asbestos by providing a detailed work history, including any paperwork relating to high-risk jobs.
Obtain a reliable diagnosis: Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose. It is important that an experienced oncologist performs the diagnosis and that your primary care physician and a qualified pathologist concur with his or her findings.
Deaths from asbestos-related products have been documented since the late 19th century. However, compensation for asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma could not be sought until 1951. Workers that had been negligently exposed to asbestos and were suffering from mesothelioma were finally able to seek monetary compensation for their pain.
Unfortunately, the adverse health effects caused by asbestos exposure continue today. Every year about 200 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma. The latency period associated with mesothelioma can be up to 30 to 50 years, meaning the signs of mesothelioma do not develop until decades after asbestos exposure occurred. Considering that workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos in the past 20 to 30 years, more cases of mesothelioma are expected to develop.
Types of Damages Awarded in Mesothelioma Cases
There are two types of damages that can be awarded in mesothelioma cases:
Compensatory damages: Compensatory damages can be awarded for monetary losses and physical and mental pain. These can include loss of wages, medical expenses, permanent disability, and emotional anguish associated with mesothelioma.
Punitive damages: Punitive damages are intended to both award the plaintiff and punish the defendant in the mesothelioma case. These damages are generally given in cases where the defendant acted in an especially negligent manner.
Talk to a Mesothelioma Attorney
If you or a loved one has been harmed by asbestos, you should contact a mesothelioma attorney for more information as soon as possible. A mesothelioma lawyer can review your case to determine if you are entitled to damages in your lawsuit.