What Are the First Signs of Asbestos Poisoning?
Asbestos poisoning is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Inhaling these fibers can lead to a chronic lung disease called asbestosis, along with many other complications. If you were repeatedly exposed to asbestos fibers at work or elsewhere, you could end up with severe scarring in your lung tissues – a condition that often causes severe health consequences.
Asbestos is durable to extreme heat, which explains its extensive use in manufacturing for many decades. It was most frequently used in the construction industry. Popular uses for asbestos include floor tiles, cement, and insulation for buildings. Because asbestos is so widely connected to construction, most people who develop asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases get it from working at their jobs.
What Does Asbestos Poisoning Feel Like?
One of the challenges of identifying the causes of asbestos-related medical complications is the long latency period. People who were repeatedly exposed to asbestos may not show any symptoms until decades after the exposure ended. If you suffer from asbestosis, you were likely exposed anywhere from 10 to 40 years ago.
How your body responds to asbestos exposure and the severity of your symptoms can vary greatly. However, most sufferers experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Do You Have Shortness of Breath?
As noted above, inhaling asbestos fibers repeatedly will likely cause scar tissue to build up in your lungs. As a result, you may find it hard to breathe. This is often one of the first warning signs of asbestosis or other related diseases.
Is Your Breath Wheezing or Crackling?
Do you hear a whistling sound when you breathe? Asbestos fibers can create inflammation in your lungs, which often causes whistling or dry crackling sounds when you take deep breaths. If you do not smoke and notice sounds like these when you breathe, contact your doctor right away.
Do You Feel Fatigued Often?
Do you find yourself getting tired quickly? If you notice yourself feeling fatigued, especially when combined with other symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.
Are Your Fingertips Swollen?
Have you noticed your fingertips swelling or becoming broad and rounded? About 50% of patients suffering from asbestos-related diseases will experience clubbing or swelling of their fingertips. Because this swelling is a common symptom of asbestosis, keep a watchful eye on your fingertips – especially if you believe you have been subjected to repeated asbestos exposure.
Do You Have a Constant Dry Cough?
Because asbestos can take up to 40 years or more to manifest, one potential telltale sign is a persistent dry cough. The cough may start when scar tissue begins forming in your lungs. As years go by and scar tissue continues to form, this persistent cough will likely worsen over time.
Be sure to seek advice from a qualified medical professional if you suspect you may have asbestos-related symptoms.
How Long Does It Take for Asbestos Symptoms to Appear?
As stated above, asbestos symptoms can take many years – even decades – to appear. This latency period starts with your asbestos exposure and lasts until you start experiencing symptoms. You may feel fine for 10-40 years after breathing in asbestos fibers. During your latency period, you will not exhibit any symptoms.
While not all asbestos exposure leads to disease, any asbestos exposure is potentially dangerous. There is no cure for most asbestos-related diseases. The best approach is to practice extreme caution if you find yourself near any asbestos. If you must be near asbestos for your job, try to avoid or limit exposure however you can. In today’s work environment, the handling of asbestos is strictly regulated, and your employer should be practicing federal-mandated safety protocols.
How Do You Know If You Have Inhaled Asbestos?
Because of the lengthy latency period associated with asbestos exposure, it’s likely that you will not know for certain if you have inhaled asbestos until you get an exam from a qualified doctor.
Get a Thorough Physical Exam
When you get a physical exam, your doctor will want to know your history. This history includes your medical history along with your potential asbestos exposure and the details of your job (if that is what led to your exposure).
Your doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to your breathing. Identifying whether your breathing is dry, raspy, labored, crackling, or whistling will be a first step in determining if you have asbestosis or another related disease.
Once your doctor has conducted a physical exam and learned about your history with asbestos, you may undergo various lung tests and/or chest x-rays. Chest x-rays are often used to detect early warning signs of lung disease. However, x-rays cannot detect actual asbestos fibers in your lungs.
If your doctor finds evidence of scar tissue forming in your lungs or other signs of lung disease, you may have to undergo a lung biopsy. This reliable, relatively painless procedure can detect if you have asbestos fibers in your lungs.
Other tests – including testing your urine, fecal matter, or mucus – can detect if you have asbestos fibers in your body, but they cannot reliably determine the number of fibers in your lungs.
How Is Asbestos Poisoning Treated?
Most treatments for asbestos-related diseases are intended to treat symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no cure for many of these diseases. Some treatment options include:
Your medical team may recommend that you start using supplemental oxygen. This treatment can help reduce the strain on your lungs as they work extra hard to keep you oxygenated. Patients on supplemental oxygen wear thin plastic tubes under their nostrils. The supplemental oxygen is delivered into this tube from an oxygen machine, which can often be wheeled or carried.
Some patients experience benefits from taking classes that teach exercise, relaxation, and pulmonary techniques. These programs also offer insight into how improving your physical activity can help your breathing.
Your doctor may determine that your condition is extreme enough to qualify for a lung transplant.
Currently, there is no way to remove asbestos fibers once they are inhaled into your lungs. While some kinds of asbestos are cleared naturally by the lungs or by degrading on their own, most treatments for asbestos-related diseases are focused on reducing symptoms and improving your quality of life.
Can I Sue Someone for Asbestos Poisoning?
If you were exposed to asbestos, you may qualify to file a lawsuit. However, there are several steps you have to take to ensure that your claim has merit.
Medical Records and Other Documentation
You must have extensive records detailing your medical condition that stems from asbestos exposure. These records must also conclusively link your asbestos exposure to the party you are suing. Because of the long latency period for asbestos-related symptoms, the process of gathering this documentation can be complicated.
Have you lost a loved one due to an asbestos-related disease? If so, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit as a family representative. You must also be sure that you submit the required paperwork before your state’s statute of limitations runs out. Different states have varying statutes – missing the deadline in your state means you will lose your legal right to pursue compensation.
A skilled asbestos personal injury lawyer can explain all your legal options and file your claim before your window of opportunity closes forever.
Trust Fund Claims
In some cases, the company responsible for your asbestos exposure may have gone bankrupt. Fortunately, when asbestos companies go bankrupt, they are required to set up trust funds. These funds have settlement amounts available for future claims of asbestos-related disease.
The exact dollar amount you could receive will depend on several factors. You will likely fall into a certain category or “class” based on your medical condition, your amount of asbestos exposure, and other details. The trust fund in question will typically have these settlement numbers already established.
Other Sources of Financial Compensation
Depending on your circumstances, you may have other forms of compensation available to you, such as:
- Your health insurance company
- Social Security
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Finally, you may have the option of filing your claim outside of your state of residency. To learn more about these options and which ones apply to you, contact an experienced personal injury law firm for help.
What Type of Asbestos Lawsuit Should I Consider?
In most cases, the two options for lawsuits after asbestos exposure are personal injury and wrongful death.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you have the option of filing a lawsuit against the company responsible for your medical issues.
While much has been said about work-related asbestos exposure, some people choose to file because of asbestos exposure that stems from consumer products. Other people choose to file because of secondhand exposure to asbestos from a loved one who worked with asbestos as part of their job.
For a claim to be successful, the lawsuit must establish that the liable party (such as your employer) did not warn you about or protect you from the dangers of inhaling asbestos.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If a family member dies due to an asbestos-related disease, their immediate family can sue the responsible party on the deceased person’s behalf. This claim can be used to recover compensation that pays for medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages, and more.
Additionally, if a person files a lawsuit while they are alive against the party responsible for their asbestos exposure, their estate can continue the lawsuit after the victim dies.
A class-action lawsuit involves plaintiffs filing claims to represent a group. Everyone in the group will likely share a similar history or condition related to their asbestos exposure. If your case is added to a class-action lawsuit, you can decide whether to stay in the group or leave and file a lawsuit on your own.
Class-action lawsuits are not the norm in asbestos-related litigation. Most asbestos cases are either MDLs or individual lawsuits.
Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is a standardized procedure that helps streamline multiple cases of the same type. MDLs are intended to speed up the legal process and help plaintiffs get relief sooner.
How Do I File a Lawsuit for Asbestos Poisoning?
If you believe you were the victim of asbestos exposure from a negligent company, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the company to seek financial compensation. However, building your case and filing a lawsuit can be intimidating for people who do not know or understand how the process works.
An asbestos law firm that is experienced in asbestos litigation can help you file the proper forms and secure the right documentation. In addition to establishing that your disease is asbestos-related, you must provide extensive documentation that proves a link to the company you are suing.
How Can an Asbestos Lawsuit Benefit You?
Getting a financial settlement for your asbestos-related disease and your pain and suffering can help in many ways. These include:
- Paying your hospital, therapy, and treatment expenses
- Reimbursing you for lost wages
- Providing you and your family with financial stability
- Compensating you for the mental and physical hardships you have endured
Because many asbestos-related diseases have no cure, long-term treatment and other costs can quickly escalate over the years.
The types of compensation you may receive are typically divided into two categories: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are the expenses that your asbestos exposure has cost you financially. If you are unable to work for months or years after being diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, your lost wages would fall under the umbrella of economic damages. Other examples of economic damages include:
- Any medical expenses not covered by your health insurance policy
- Travel expenses for asbestos-related medical treatments
As the name implies, non-economic damages are expenses without a specific dollar amount attached, such as pain and suffering. If your family suffers the loss of a family member due to an asbestos-related disease, your family could receive financial compensation for loss of companionship, lost earning potential, and more.
Contact an Asbestos Poisoning Lawsuit Attorney Today
Have you been exposed to asbestos? If so, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Thankfully, you do not have to go through this process alone.