Asbestos has been used for centuries to provide insulation against extreme hot and cold temperatures. Large-scale mining and use of the mineral began in the nineteenth century, when the industrial revolution in the western world demanded its increased use in construction and consumer goods.
Asbestos exposure can have damaging health effects. These effects were first recognized by physicians in the 1920s, but were not made widely available to the public until the 1970s. This was because manufacturers in the asbestos processing industry opted to self-regulate their product, downplaying the health effects that it could have on individuals working with or exposed to asbestos.
Today, hundreds of thousands of Americans are living with diseases caused by asbestos exposure. Ten-thousand individuals will die this year from complications of mesothelioma, asbestosis and related illnesses. If you are suffering from any type of illness linked with asbestos exposure in your workplace, you may be able to file a claim for monetary compensation to cover your medical bills and other losses related to the disease. The circumstances of your exposure, the extent of your medical needs and the type of employer that exposed you to the asbestos can all determine where you can file your claim and the likelihood of receiving monetary compensation. If your illness was caused by exposure to asbestos in multiple workplaces over the course of your career, you may be able to file multiple claims.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a category of minerals known by their long, fibrous structure. Six minerals make up this category: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Although many countries have stopped mining asbestos and passed laws against its processing and use in consumer products, it is still mined in Russia, China, Brazil, Canada and Kazakhstan today.
Asbestos is better known as an insulator. From the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, asbestos could be found in nearly every product that had to be insulated against extreme temperatures. This included many of the parts and products used in building construction, such as:
- Wall tiles
- Joint compound
Although asbestos use in the construction industry was mostly halted in the late twentieth century, the mineral compound is still prevalent in many older homes and buildings. If you have been exposed to asbestos in your workplace because the older insulation or fixtures in your building were not maintained, removed, or otherwise acknowledged by your employer, you may have grounds to file an exposure claim against your employer.
Asbestos was used in other products as well. One of the biggest industries for asbestos use was the textile and garment industry. Companies that manufactured laboratory safety equipment needed a durable, flexible way to insulate their products. Asbestos met this need and went on to be used in the following types of safety equipment:
- Laboratory aprons
- Safety gloves
- Protective leggings
- Dust masks
- Theater curtains
- Fire blankets
Asbestos could also be found in consumer products such as baby powder, crock pots, hot plates, artificial snow, and cigarette filters.
Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is most dangerous in its powdered form because it can be inhaled and cause significant damage to the respiratory system. Asbetos can also be absorbed through the skin through frequent touching, but this is much less common than asbestos inhalation.
The most common illness caused by asbestos exposure is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the mesothelium, which is the protective membrane around many of the body’s internal organs. This includes the lungs, the heart, and the abdominal cavity.
Because mesothelioma is a type of cancer, there is no absolute cure for it. However, there are various types of treatment that doctors employ to relieve patients’ symptoms and slow the growth of the cancer. These include surgery and chemotherapy.
Another illness caused by asbestos exposure is asbestosis, a lung disease that can range from mild to severe.
Who is Liable in an Asbestos Exposure Case?
It depends on the circumstances of your exposure. If you worked in the mining or manufacturing of asbestos or asbestos products, your employer may be found liable for your illness. If you did not work in an industry related to asbestos development, but you were still exposed to it in your workplace and became ill, the manufacturer of the asbestos product linked to your illness may be held liable.
If your asbestos exposure occurred at work, you may file a claim for workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is the insurance that most companies are required to purchase to provide for expenses incurred by employees for the injuries they sustain on the job. Talk to your attorney about filing a workers’ compensation claim against the party responsible for your asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Exposure in the Military
A disproportionate number of mesothelioma patients are former members of the United States military. This is because for much of the twentieth century, asbestos exposure in military buildings, ships, and equipment could not be avoided.
Veterans suffering from mesothelioma and other diseases linked to asbestos exposure have the option of filing a claim with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. This federal program exists to provide veterans with benefits such as healthcare insurance, disability coverage, and survivor’s benefits.
The Personal Injury Claim Process
If you do decide to pursue a personal injury claim against your current or former employer, an asbestos product manufacturer, or the United States military, the first thing you need to do is seek medical attention if you have not already done so. You will need a doctor’s diagnosis and proof of treatment to support your claim for compensation. Once you have done so, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to prepare your case.
The next step is to file a document to the defendant stating your intention to seek monetary compensation. Your attorney will do this on your behalf. The defendant may then file a motion to dismiss the claim.
During the discovery process, the court hears your claim and the defendant’s counterclaim, if one exists. It reviews all information related to the case and may ask you and the defendant questions about this information.
Then, the case goes to trial. If the court finds you to be entitled to monetary compensation, the defendant must post bond for this amount.