Your Legal Rights: Who’s Responsible?

A mesothelioma diagnosis means that you’ve been exposed to some form of asbestos and may have the right to file a lawsuit, as asbestos is known to cause cancer requiring extensive medical treatment. The Environmental Protection Agency began strict regulation of asbestos in 1970. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned its use in wall-patching products and gas fireplaces in the late 1970s.

Decades later, thousands of people who worked closely with asbestos continue to pay the price. Each year, doctors diagnose approximately 3,300 cases of mesothelioma (and tens of thousands more cases of lung cancer) in the United States. The majority of patients in treatment — around 80 percent — encountered the cancer-causing carcinogen on the job. Those facing the highest risk worked in a variety of different industries where airborne contamination caused lung damage, including manufacturing, construction, industrial work, or vehicle and aircraft maintenance.

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Filing a Claim

Unsafe occupational asbestos exposure — and your mesothelioma diagnosis — is the result of corporate negligence by companies who knew since the 1930’s that the asbestos in their products was very harmful to workers and could cause lung and other organ damage. Companies have a responsibility to inform workers of any health risks they face on the job, as well as the responsibility for ensuring adequate asbestos removal before any construction, demolition, or renovation projects. If you developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure on the job or during military service, you are likely entitled to financial compensation.

To begin the process, you or members of your family will need to file a claim against the asbestos companies responsible for your exposure. Don’t wait to take this step! Each state has a set time frame, called a statute of limitations, during which these claims must be filed. The average length of time is between two to three years from the time of a cancer diagnosis, so it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. If you do choose to move forward with a mesothelioma lawsuit, there are two types of claims mesothelioma lawyers file:

Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Personal Injury

Patients living with mesothelioma file a personal injury claim. It provides compensation for current and future medical treatment, lost wages, and any additional pain and suffering that occurs as a result of the disease.

Wrongful Death

Families file this type of claim after the death of a loved one from cancer or other illness caused by another’s negligence. It covers past medical treatment bills, loss of income, and even funeral expenses.

There’s no courtroom and no drawn-out trial. In a majority of cases, a mesothelioma attorney will travel to meet the person filing the claim to ask questions and take a statement. It may take several months to resolve a claim, but the client’s involvement is typically only one day.

Asbestos Trusts, Workers’ Compensation, and Veterans Benefits

There are several additional sources of compensation available for mesothelioma victims besides lawsuits, depending on the exposure and type of claim filed.

Asbestos Trusts

These funds are set up when an asbestos company files for bankruptcy to ensure future claimants receive compensation. Trusts may carry the company’s name but are a completely separate entity; a board of trustees manages the fund. In the United States, there are close to 60 asbestos trusts with an estimated $37 billion earmarked for mesothelioma victims.

Workers’ Compensation

This type of insurance is mandatory for all legal businesses and provides compensation for employees who are injured or become ill on the job (regardless of whether or not the illness involves lung damage). Workers’ compensation claims help recover lost wages and medical expenses. However, they aren’t designed to hold your employer responsible. Mesothelioma victims who file through workers’ compensation give up the right to hold the employer accountable. As a result, they may not receive adequate payment for their pain and suffering. However, it’s still possible to file separate lawsuits against the asbestos companies responsible for your exposure. Talk to a local mesothelioma attorney who is familiar with the requirements for filing claims.

Veterans Benefits

Asbestos exposure and the resulting lung cancer or mesothelioma diagnosis are an epidemic among veterans, with service members making up nearly a third of new cases. All five branches of the military used the material for insulation and as a flame retardant well into the 1970s. Some bases used asbestos in the construction of homes, barracks, mess halls, and other buildings.

As a result, many service members were regularly exposed to asbestos and are in danger of developing mesothelioma. In order to assist veterans and their families, the government set up special VA benefits to provide compensation for disability claims and dependents. Learn more about veterans’ benefits for mesothelioma patients.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, request a free case evaluation from an experienced mesothelioma attorney to learn how about your legal options and start the process for financial compensation.

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