For decades, asbestos was a common material in a wide range of different industries. Workers performed their jobs side-by-side with it for years, totally unaware of the danger asbestos posed to their health.
Today, asbestos is a watchword for unsafe conditions. So many people have suffered adverse health effects due to exposure that massive settlements have been reached and trusts have been established to compensate those affected.
Mesothelioma is one of the most serious impacts of asbestos exposure, but it isn’t the only risk that can affect you and your family. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other life-threatening illnesses after coming into contact with asbestos, Lincoln Trial Lawyers can help.
Contact our mesothelioma lawyers today for a free consultation.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral found in nature. It was widely adopted by many industries because of its insulation and non-conductive properties, which resulted in the use of asbestos for purposes such as:
- Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
- Electrical wiring
- Automobile parts
- Construction and building materials
- Fire-resistant fabrics for clothing and upholstery
The fibers of asbestos are easily disturbed and can become airborne. The material is toxic if inhaled. This, unfortunately, can lead to a host of health issues affecting the lungs and other systems of the body.
What Are the Health Effects of Asbestos?
Exposure to asbestos always carries risks, including inflammation and scarring of pulmonary tissue in the lungs. The buildup of fibrous tissue in the lungs is known as asbestosis.
Asbestosis may present with symptoms such as:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Crackling sound in the lungs
- Unintentional weight loss
Over time, plaques may form within the pleural layer that surrounds the lungs. This increases the risk of pleural effusion, or accumulation of fluid around the lungs, as well as increased thickness of the pleura. Both of these conditions make it more difficult to breathe.
Patients exposed to asbestos may also develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). In addition to respiratory issues described above, people with COPD are at a higher risk of developing respiratory infections, pneumonia, and other potentially life-threatening complications.
As a carcinogen, asbestos also increases the risk of several forms of cancer, including lung cancer and throat cancer. However, the cancer most associated with asbestos is mesothelioma.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a cancer that afflicts the membrane encasing several different areas of the body. The vast majority of mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos.
One of the most frightening aspects of mesothelioma is the length of time it takes for this cancer to present. Mesothelioma can take decades to develop, with symptoms only becoming apparent once the disease has advanced.
As a result, men and women in a wide variety of different professions and situations may have been exposed:
- Construction workers
- HVAC installation and maintenance workers
- Railroad workers
- Plumbers and pipefitters
- Dock workers
- Service members of all armed forces branches, including the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Coast Guard
The people who work with products and materials containing asbestos aren’t the only ones at risk. Residents and tenants of buildings in which asbestos was used in insulation, wiring, drywall, roofing tiles, sheet metal, and other components may also develop mesothelioma.
The symptoms people with mesothelioma exhibit will depend on which areas of the body are involved, as well as the severity of the disease
Types of mesothelioma
The most common type of mesothelioma develops in the pleural tissue surrounding the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma may present with a dry, persistent cough, trouble breathing, and worsening pain in the chest.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the peritoneum, or stomach lining. It occurs when asbestos fibers are ingested. Symptoms include pain and swelling of the abdomen, as well as chronic bouts of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Pericardial mesothelioma forms in the membrane that encloses the heart (the pericardium). Symptoms may be similar to pleural mesothelioma, including chest pain and breathing issues, as well as fluid forming around the heart, irregular heartbeat, and risk of heart failure.
In men, a mesentery layer encloses the testicles. Although rare, men who are exposed to asbestos may develop testicular mesothelioma. The testicles and scrotum may swell, and patients may experience pain and heaviness in the genitals and abdomen.
Is There a Cure for Mesothelioma?
Unfortunately, mesothelioma is incurable. Certain treatments can help manage symptoms of the disease and slow its progression, but there is no way to be rid of it.
You and your doctors will discuss the best treatment options based on the type of mesothelioma you have, your symptoms, and the stage of the disease. Possible treatments may include:
- Surgery to drain excess fluid, remove cancerous tissue and tumors, and relieve pain
- Radiation treatment
- Treatment involving multiple modalities
As you undergo procedures, be sure you are keeping all explanation of benefits (EOB) statements and bills you receive.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Diagnosed with Mesothelioma?
Your first priority should be receiving medical care. If your loved one was diagnosed, it is equally important to be supportive of their needs when it comes to doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and other steps.
However, it is important to be aware of your legal rights in cases of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other asbestos-induced diseases.
Can I sue for asbestos exposure?
Mesothelioma cases are considered “toxic torts.” A toxic tort is a lawsuit that seeks compensation for damages caused by exposure to a hazardous material, such as asbestos.
Toxic torts are a complex area of litigation. They often require significant investigation and expert testimony to pursue successfully. The damages available in these cases can be significant, both to compensate the victim and in some cases to punish misconduct.
You have several options for pursuing legal action in an asbestos case:
1. Individual lawsuit
Depending on the circumstances, a mesothelioma lawsuit is similar to a product liability claim. You are pursuing compensation for harm you have suffered due to the safety defect of materials and products containing asbestos.
Due to its well-established carcinogenic properties, most asbestos claims are settled before they go to court. The manufacturers of asbestos products generally settle lawsuits rather than risk the awards a jury may assign in these cases.
Compensation that may be recoverable in a mesothelioma lawsuit includes:
- Medical expenses, including diagnostic and surgical procedures
- Lost wages and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship (with a spouse)
- Loss of parental relationship
In some cases, your loved one may have already passed away from mesothelioma prior to your lawsuit. If this happens, our lawyers can pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of your family. In addition to the damages above, other forms of compensation may be available, including:
- Costs for hospice and other palliative care
- Expenses for burial or cremation
- Funeral costs
Whether you are the victim of asbestos exposure or you are acting on behalf of a loved one who is sick or passed away from mesothelioma, Lincoln Trial Lawyers represents the best interests of you and your family. Our attorneys will advocate for you in settlement negotiations and present your case in court if the need arises.
What if I am a smoker?
It is not uncommon in product liability and mass action claims for the defendant to try to turn fault back on the claimant. When the claim involves a cancer diagnosis, a common defense tactic is to pinpoint behaviors that increase cancer risk. If the plaintiff in the case is or was a smoker, the defense will certainly argue that tobacco use was a – if not the – cause of the cancer.
However, even if you are or were formerly a smoker, you may be eligible for compensation if you develop mesothelioma.
Although smoking can exacerbate the symptoms of mesothelioma, especially the pleural type, it does not appear to elevate the risk of mesothelioma. Combined with the significant link between asbestos exposure and this cancer, defense counsel has little room to present alternative narratives for how their client’s use of asbestos did not result in the plaintiff’s cancer.
As a result, current and ex-smokers may not be disqualified from receiving compensation if they are diagnosed with mesothelioma.
2. Trust funds
As the dangers of asbestos became apparent, the companies that manufactured or used products containing asbestos faced massive liability from workers and consumers alike. Over the years, a number of companies were ordered by the courts to establish trusts to compensate victims. This move enabled the companies to avoid further litigation and enter bankruptcy proceedings so they could restructure and resume business operations.
Depending on your work history or personal circumstances, you may qualify for compensation through one of these trusts. Unfortunately, it is not so simple as submitting an application and getting money in return.
Lincoln Trial Lawyers can walk you through the confusing rules and conditions governing mesothelioma and asbestos trusts. You may be eligible for compensation from one or more funds, but it is important to identify the most suitable trusts so our attorneys can pursue your claim in a timely fashion, and with a higher likelihood of achieving the compensation you deserve.
3. Veterans disability claims
Former service members may have been exposed to asbestos through equipment and materials used by the military, or when fibers were released from damaged or destroyed buildings in overseas engagements. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers benefits to vets who are exposed to asbestos.
However, getting the benefits you deserve can be a lengthy and complicated process. Most first-time VA benefits claims are denied, and it is not uncommon for subsequent applications to experience the same fate.
Whether you are filing for VA benefits for the first time or you are trying to refile your claim, an experienced attorney can help you gather medical and service records, submit your benefits application, and more.
Contact Us Today
A mesothelioma diagnosis in your family is overwhelming. Although getting the care you need or assisting your loved one with treatment should be your priority, don’t lose sight of your legal rights.
You may be entitled to compensation for the expenses of medical, end-of-life, and after-life care. The first step is to contact an attorney to discuss your case at a free consultation.