How Do You Prove Asbestos Exposure?
What Are the First Signs of Asbestos Exposure?
A person who has been exposed to asbestos may experience shortness of breath or chest pains. They also may have a nagging dry cough. If you or someone you love is concerned about asbestos exposure, you should see a doctor to determine if these symptoms are due to asbestos exposure or something else.
This guide will outline symptoms of asbestos-related disease, whose most at risk from asbestos, what your options are for seeking financial compensation if your health has been compromised due to asbestos exposure, and more.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural-occurring mineral product that construction companies and other industries have used. Because asbestos is heat and corrosion-resistant, companies used it extensively in cement, insulation, and flooring.
Long-term asbestos exposure has been known to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other lung diseases. While asbestos is still used in brake pads and other products, it is no longer used in building construction. Before the harmful effects of this product were discovered, it was widely used in drywall construction and insulation materials.
Common Reasons for Asbestos Exposure
Most asbestos exposure happens while a person is working on the job. Once asbestos was discovered to be harmful, the federal government stepped in to regulate its use in the 1970s.
In modern times, asbestos use and handling are strictly regulated. Industries that still use asbestos must follow strict guidelines to ensure their employees do not risk exposure. Federal mandates require asbestos to be handled only by trained and accredited asbestos professionals.
Can You Sue Someone for Exposing You to Asbestos?
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible for financial compensation from the company responsible for your exposure. If the company using or manufacturing the asbestos is found liable for your damages, you may receive a payout.
Unfortunately, while asbestos exposure and the resulting illnesses are preventable, mesothelioma and other lung-related diseases still affect hundreds or thousands of victims annually. As stated above, most asbestos exposure stems from certain jobs. These employees come in contact with asbestos as part of their job description. This repeated exposure over a long period can lead to various lung diseases.
Employees working directly with or in close proximately of asbestos are not the only victims, however. Consumers can contract asbestos-related diseases from certain products sold to the public. And some asbestos-related diseases originate from the secondhand exposure many family members experience when a loved one comes home after working with or near this toxic material.
Timeline of Asbestos-Related Diseases
Asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer, may not show up until years after asbestos exposure. Many medical experts pinpoint the gestation of asbestos-related diseases at between 10-40 years after exposure. While the disease may take decades to appear, medical expenses, stress, and hardship can occur rapidly after a diagnosis.
Because the United States does not have universal healthcare or a nationwide asbestos compensation program, victims are often forced to rely on legal representation to attempt to receive financial compensation for their suffering.
How Much Can You Sue for Asbestos Exposure?
Victims of asbestos-related diseases often want to know how much a potential settlement would be. A personal injury attorney would not give you an exact dollar amount to expect for your payout.
Each personal injury case has far too many moving parts. Multiple factors can greatly affect what your settlement might be. The company you are suing may push for a trial, or it may open out-of-court settlement discussions.
If your case were to be tried in court, there is no guarantee of a victorious verdict. The jury, after hearing both sides of the case, may decide you failed to prove your disease was related to asbestos exposure from the company or companies you are litigating against. There are important things to remember when starting an asbestos-related claim.
Many Asbestos Cases Are Settled Out of Court
Sometimes, asbestos-related cases are settled out of court. The company being sued may offer a plaintiff a financial package to avoid going to court. In these cases, attorneys for both sides will negotiate an offer acceptable to the plaintiff and defendant.
While some companies push a personal injury case to court, others offer to settle to save months or years along with time and money in litigation expenses. When both parties agree to settle, the plaintiff’s side also saves considerable amounts of money in legal fees,
What Is an Asbestos Case Worth?
The company being sued looks at a lot of data to know what to offer in a settlement. The company’s medical and legal experts may consider:
- The kind of asbestos-related disease the plaintiff has
- What kind of asbestos exposure were they subjected to?
- How credible or damaging is the plaintiff’s evidence against the company?
- How are the defendant company’s finances?
These and other factors influence any settlement decisions. However, the biggest things that affect settlement discussions are the potential economic and non-economic damages and the culpability of the company.
A plaintiff may seek to recover the financial costs of contracting a disease as a direct result of asbestos exposure. These economic damages may include:
- Medical expenses for diagnosing or testing the asbestos-related disease
- Lost wages from the victim’s inability to work
- Lost future earnings in anticipation of the victim not returning to work
- Costs associated with the need to hire a person to do work the victim can no longer do
Did your insurer cover your medical bills? If so, your insurance company may step in to claim part of your settlement to cover its costs. In some cases, an asbestos attorney can negotiate with your insurance company on your behalf so that you receive the highest amount of your settlement possible.
How Are Lost Future Earnings Calculated?
Lost wages will be calculated based on your salary before you had to stop working due to your diagnosis. Your future earnings would be determined based on an estimation of your remaining productive work years would be if you had not contracted your disease.
Further, asbestos-related diseases have no cure, so the disease can lower your life expectancy. Therefore, further damages may be added to your settlement to account for pension and retirement.
What Costs Are Associated with Hiring Someone to Do Work?
Asbestos-related diseases often hamper a person’s ability to do everyday household chores. Some of your damages may come from the money you would need to pay someone to do those tasks for you.
In many personal injury cases, non-economic damages are the biggest losses the victim or the victim’s surviving family suffer. Asbestos-related diseases have no cure, so the money is used to compensate the victim for the emotional duress stemming from the disease. Exact dollar amounts are understandably difficult to calculate. These cases often start by looking at the specific disease the plaintiff has.
Mesothelioma and lung cancer are generally regarded as harsher diseases than asbestosis. These victims tend to be awarded higher dollar amounts for non-economic damages. These are only guidelines, however. If a person gets Stage 1 lung cancer from asbestos exposure that is cured, they may receive lower non-economic compensation than a patient with asbestosis who uses oxygen and “suffers” more.
As you can see from this brief example, no case is ever cut and dry. Having a law firm represent your interests can make these arguments on your behalf. Your attorney can argue your damages should be based on your circumstances and not influenced by someone else’s.
Establishing the Defendant’s Liability
For your claim to succeed, you must prove asbestos caused your disease and that the company you are suing was responsible for your diagnosis. This responsibility must be tied to the company’s products or ways of handling asbestos. If you have well-established facts supporting your case, you may stand a better chance of securing financial compensation.
Several companies involved in asbestos litigation have gone bankrupt. In the wake of these bankruptcies, trusts were established to compensate for future asbestos claims. These trusts often have a set amount that a claim will receive based on certain factors, such as how long an employee was exposed to asbestos while working for a company.
Is There a Test for Asbestos Exposure?
There is no single established test for asbestos exposure. Victims generally must wait until they are diagnosed. If you feel you were exposed to asbestos, consult with your medical professional with any questions or concerns.
Who Is Most at Risk from Asbestos Exposure?
People working in certain industries have a much higher likelihood of contracting an asbestos-related disease. Before the risks of asbestos exposure were known, the milling and mining industries used a lot of the mineral. In some cases, these workers were exposed to it for years.
Asbestos usage peaked in the 1960s and 1970s. Later in the 1970s, experts began to discover the risks associated with asbestos. As stated earlier in this report, the federal government stepped in and established safety protocols to keep asbestos workers safe.
The Long Asbestos Disease Latency Period
Because asbestos-related diseases may not manifest for 10-40 years, employees exposed to the toxic material in the 1960s and 1970s are now being diagnosed with various asbestos-related diseases.
Sadly, asbestos-related deaths are rising sharply as of this writing. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) data predicts the asbestos-related disease rate will continue to rise in coming decades.
Asbestos Exposure Risks Today
As the United States continues trying to remove or replace products or materials using asbestos, the workers involved in these tasks are the most at risk. Even with all the known risks associated with asbestos and the federal safety checks in place, an estimated 1.3 million workers in construction and related asbestos removal or replacement industries are exposed to the toxic mineral.
Asbestos Exposure Symptoms
As stated earlier in this guide, victims of asbestos may not be diagnosed with a related disease until decades after the exposure.
Common symptoms include:
- Dry, persistent coughing
- Feeling pain or tightness in the chest
- Hearing a dry or crackling sound while inhaling
- Clubbing, or widening, of the fingertips and toes
- Experiencing shortness of breath
Asbestos causes lung disease because of its fibers. Some fiber pieces are small enough to become airborne and inhaled. These tiny particles make their way to a person’s lungs. From there, these particles cause inflammation and scarring. Asbestos is classified as a carcinogen or cancer-causing agent. Below are some of the most common asbestos-related diseases:
Every cancer disrupts the host body’s regular cell division and growth. Cancer stimulates uncontrolled, abnormal growth. Cells grow at a substantially increased rate, resulting in masses or tumors.
Asbestosis causes scarring and inflammation in the victim’s lungs. Victims may experience the most common symptoms of asbestos-related disease, including shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and feeling a tightness in their chest. The disease may manifest into a more severe illness, such as:
- Pulmonary heart disease
- Lung cancer
Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer. There is a thin tissue layer that covers many of the victim’s internal organs. Mesothelioma strikes this thin layer and results in death for many patients.
Other Asbestos-Related Diseases
There are several other asbestos-related diseases, including:
- Gastrointestinal tract cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Larynx cancer
- Oropharynx cancer
- Lung lining scarring
- Pleural effusions
You Can Consult with a Mesothelioma Attorney About Asbestos Exposure
Victims of company negligence and exposure to harmful or lethal products can seek legal action. They also may be able to join mass tort actions against these negligent companies. Several plaintiffs join multidistrict litigation (MDL), which allows victims’ attorneys to pool resources. By sharing research, witnesses, and medical evidence, MDLs bring strong cases against these companies, increasing the likelihood that the defendant companies will be brought to justice.
An asbestos lawsuit attorney may be able to help you join a mass tort action. They can file the paperwork you need for a lawsuit, negotiate a settlement on your behalf, and represent your interests. You could then concentrate on your treatment and recovery from your disease. Fill out the contact form for more information.