In the 1990s, asbestos was widely used in the United States because of its heat and fire-resistance properties. Many companies mined, produced, and used asbestos. However, when the health risks associated with its use, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, became known, the United States passed many regulations to restrict its use. Unfortunately, many people had already been exposed to asbestos. Today, there are many asbestos lawsuits, and this is unlikely to change soon.
Why Are There So Many Asbestos Lawsuits?
Three factors have made asbestos lawsuits common.
Asbestos Exposure Causes Disease
Asbestos causes severe respiratory conditions, such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Asbestos contains microscopic fibers. When they are released into the air and inhaled, they can embed themselves in lung tissues and cause life-threatening diseases.
Asbestos Was Widely Used, Causing Exposure
During the mid-20th century, asbestos was widely used in construction, shipbuilding, automotive manufacturing, and by the military. These industries used asbestos in products such as insulation and brake pads. They used asbestos because it is heat resistant and works well as an insulator.
Although many persons were exposed to asbestos in their workplace, there was also secondary exposure. Asbestos fibers are lightweight. So, many workers unknowingly exposed family members to the asbestos fibers they took home on their clothes.
Courts Established the Liability of Asbestos Companies
In 1935, the United States saw its first case of asbestosis. Mesothelioma and lung cancer were also attributed to asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, many companies concealed the information from their workers and the public.
However, in 1997, the Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation case addressed asbestos exposure and liability issues. The ruling established that manufacturers could be responsible for injuries from exposure to asbestos-containing products. This influenced subsequent asbestos-related cases and encouraged victims to seek relief.
Can I Sue for Asbestos Exposure?
Generally, you can’t sue for asbestos exposure unless it causes an injury. However, if the exposure results in diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis, you can claim compensation for asbestos exposure. You may get compensation from workers’ compensation and veterans’ benefits.
If you lost a loved one to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, you may file a wrongful death lawsuit to receive compensation.
State laws determine who can file a lawsuit and other asbestos claims on behalf of a deceased victim. Generally, the following people may be eligible:
- A spouse or life partner
- Financial dependents
- Parents or grandparents
An experienced mesothelioma attorney can help determine if you can file an asbestos lawsuit and other claims and how much you can recover as compensation.
Who Is Responsible for Asbestos Exposure?
Several potential defendants may be liable in an asbestos claim. Most asbestos cases involve:
Asbestos Mining Companies
Although the United States no longer mines asbestos, workers who worked in mining companies and residents who lived around mines are still at risk. This is because asbestos-related diseases typically develop over a long period. If companies that mined asbestos didn’t take safety measures or warn workers and residents, they could be responsible for asbestos exposure.
Asbestos was used as a construction and industrial material. Asbestos manufacturers can be responsible for neglecting to warn about the health hazards associated with asbestos.
Manufacturers of Asbestos-Containing Products
Thousands of products, such as brakes, engines, boilers, and electronics, often contain asbestos. Companies that made or still make products with asbestos can also face asbestos liability.
Employers must ensure safe working conditions, warn employees about asbestos dangers, and provide safety training. So, if you were injured from asbestos exposure in your workplace, you can hold your employer responsible.
Owners of Asbestos-Contaminated Properties
Property owners whose buildings were built with asbestos can be liable for asbestos-related injuries. Property owners must disclose if they used asbestos in their property or discovered their building contained asbestos. If you were exposed to asbestos in your home, you may hold the property owner responsible for your injuries.
How Do You Prove Asbestos Liability?
To succeed in your asbestos lawsuit, you must prove liability. Liability is based on three principles.
Negligence occurs when a defendant fails to meet a reasonable standard of care, resulting in harm. In a negligence case, a plaintiff must establish four key elements: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
Proving causation can be difficult in asbestos cases because of the long latency period. However, an experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you prove your case.
Under strict liability, you can hold the defendant liable for your injuries without the need to prove fault. Most inherently dangerous products, such as asbestos-containing materials, come under strict liability. The fact that the product contained dangerous materials is enough to make the defendant responsible.
Breach of Warranty
Breach of warranty involves claims that the defendant, often a manufacturer or seller, breached an expressed or implied warranty about a product’s safety. There’s an implied warranty that a product is safe to use. If that is false, which is often the case with asbestos products, you can hold the manufacturer and seller liable.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Asbestos Claims?
Each state has a different time limit to file mesothelioma and asbestos cases. In most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations starts running when the action causing the injury occurs. For example, in a car accident case, it will be the day the crash occurred.
However, asbestos cases follow the discovery rule. This was established in the Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation case. For asbestos personal injury lawsuits, the clock starts ticking when a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease. In wrongful death lawsuits, time starts running when the victim dies.
In most states, you must file your asbestos claim within one to three years. You may have the option to file your asbestos claim in more than one state, including:
- States where you’ve lived
- States where you worked and suffered asbestos exposure
- States where the companies responsible for your asbestos exposure are located
What Illnesses Are Associated With Asbestos Exposure?
Asbestos fibers break down into tiny particles when released into the air. When the particles are inhaled, they collect in the lungs, where they can cause scarring and inflammation. Some U.S. health organizations have classified asbestos as a carcinogen, a cancer-causing substance.
Asbestos exposure can increase the risk of developing the following:
- Lung cancer
- Mesothelioma a rare cancer that affects the chest and stomach lining
- Asbestosis, which causes permanent lung damage
- Scarring of the lung lining
- Pleural effusions, which happen when fluid collects around the lungs
- Cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, kidney, and throat
What Occupations Are Most at Risk of Asbestos Exposure?
Everyone is exposed to asbestos to a degree. However, people who do some types of jobs have a higher risk of exposure and a higher risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. Those who have worked with asbestos or in buildings containing asbestos have the highest risk.
The following occupations have a higher risk of asbestos exposure:
- Asbestos mining and milling
- Construction and building trades
- Shipbuilding and naval service
- Railway construction
- Manufacture of chemicals, flooring, plastics, or rubber
- Asbestos removal
- Drywall removal
- Auto industry, especially making or repairing brakes
- Fabric milling
- Demolition work
Workers who helped after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City are also at risk of asbestos disease. The people who worked in the debris at ground zero, such as firefighters, paramedics, police officers, construction workers, and volunteers, face the highest danger. This is because of the use of asbestos in constructing the North Tower of the WTC. The attack on the building released tons of asbestos into the air.
What Are Asbestos Trust Fund Claims?
Asbestos trust fund claims provide for persons who suffered asbestos disease from exposure caused by bankrupt companies. Once people learned about the risks of asbestos, numerous asbestos companies went bankrupt to avoid lawsuits. A condition for bankruptcy protection was opening an asbestos trust fund.
The trust fund will compensate those harmed by their exposure to asbestos. Currently, victims of mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related diseases can file claims with an asbestos trust fund and receive payouts.
You may file a claim with multiple trust funds if multiple companies were involved in your exposure to asbestos. An asbestos lawyer can guide you to the right trust fund to file a claim to receive compensation.
What Are the Steps for Filing an Asbestos Lawsuit?
Here’s how to file an asbestos lawsuit:
1. Consult with an experienced asbestos attorney.
2. Investigate the extent of your asbestos exposure.
3. Undergo a medical examination to determine if you have an asbestos-related illness.
4. File a complaint in court.
5. Exchange information and evidence during the discovery process.
6. Attempt settlement negotiations.
7. Go to trial if parties cannot settle.
Working with an experienced asbestos attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America: Asbestos History
National Cancer Institute: Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk