A mesothelioma diagnosis likely means one thing: you’ve been exposed to some form of asbestos. It’s a known human carcinogen; the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned its use in wall-patching products and gas fireplaces in the late 1970s, and the Environmental Protection Agency eliminated any ‘new use’ of the substance in 1989. Although it’s important to note that asbestos is still used in some products in the United States, as well as products shipped in from overseas.
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 in the United States, and the majority of patients — around 80 percent — were exposed to the carcinogen on the job. Those facing the highest risk worked in a variety of different industries, including manufacturing, construction, industrial work, or vehicle and aircraft maintenance.
If past asbestos exposure has lead to present health concerns, there are legal options to help cover your medical expenses and hold the asbestos company accountable, including mesothelioma lawsuits, asbestos trust funds, workers' compensation, and veterans benefits.
Your Legal Rights: Who Is Responsible?
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but occupational asbestos exposure — and your mesothelioma diagnosis — is often the result of corporate negligence. Companies have a responsibility to inform workers of any health risks they face on the job. If you developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure on the job or during military service, you are likely entitled to financial compensation.
Filing a Claim
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
Patients living with mesothelioma as a result of negligent asbestos exposure file this type of 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.
Families file this type of claim after the death of a loved one. It covers past medical bills, loss of income, and even funeral expenses.
Taking legal action may sound confusing or intimidating, but filing a mesothelioma claim isn’t as complicated as it sounds.
There’s no courtroom, no drawn-out trial or class-action lawsuit. 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 and receive compensation, 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, depending on the exposure and type of lawsuit 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 businesses and provides compensation for employees who are injured or become ill on the job. Workers’ comp 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 and may not receive adequate payment for their pain and suffering. However, it’s still possible to file a separate lawsuit 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 cancer diagnosis is an epidemic among veterans, with service members making up nearly a third of new cases. All five branches of the U.S. military used the material for insulation and as a flame retardant well into the 1970s. On some bases, it was used in the construction of homes and 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, which provide compensation for disability claims and dependents. For more information, talk to a qualified VA claims specialist.