Have you worked or are working in an asbestos-exposed environment? During the duration of this work or even several years after, did you experience shortness of breath, an abrupt weight loss and frequent chest pains? If you are positive on both counts, you may be in danger of mesothelioma, a disorder usually associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos dust or fibers.
If you are in this situation and you have proven that the cause of your illness is exposure to asbestos, you can then seek the help of solicitors to make a legal claim against your negligent employers. Solicitors already filed thousands of lawsuits against the asbestos industry and other employers for people with asbestos mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. Such claims have awarded beneficiaries in millions of dollars in compensation, depending on the case filed and conditions included in the case.
The following is a brief discussion to guide workers who were at one time or another, exposed to asbestos materials in the course of their employment and have exhibited symptoms of diseases that have been established as caused by asbestos exposure. This guide can help them understand their situation and to let these workers know about their legal rights in getting the proper compensation particularly if their illnesses be proven as caused by asbestos exposure.
The Role of Asbestos
Towards the end of the 1800s and the early periods of the 1900s, asbestos became very popular as an excellent building material, which exhibited superb properties like resistance to fire, high electrical resistivity and low cost. Its popularity increased exponentially during and after World War II where several industries used asbestos extensively for fireproofing, heat insulation, sound absorption as well as an additive to strengthen plastics and cement. This usage of asbestos materials remained active during the past four decades.
Heat or chemicals do not affect asbestos fibers, which makes it ideal for the shipbuilding industry that makes use of this material as insulation for boilers, pipes and even nuclear reactors. It is also a very popular component in the brake and clutch pads for automobiles. Asbestos occur in masses of fibers in its natural form, which breaks easily in tiny dust particles that floats readily in the air and cling to clothes and surfaces. This characteristic makes it easy for people to inhale or swallow asbestos fibers – and this is where the problem begins.
The Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
People easily inhale airborne asbestos particles; however, these fibers are sharp and can penetrate soft tissues, which makes it difficult for the lungs to expel them. Studies over the years revealed the dangers of prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers and health officials attributed several health concerns and issues to asbestos. This includes the following:
When asbestos fibers invade the lungs, the body naturally reacts by releasing acids to try to dissolve these fibers. Since these fibers are acid-resistant, the continuous release of acids results in the severe scarring of the tissues inside the lungs, resulting to asbestosis. This disease was first discovered in textile workers exposed to asbestos fibers and would take 10 to 20 years before the disease can fully develop and diagnosed.
It is a cancer of the lining in the lungs, chest cavities, abdominal cavities, and includes the sac that surrounds the heart or the pericardium. Mesothelioma is different from other lung cancers associated with smoking and research has established it as caused by asbestos fibers. A person may develop this disease after a latency period of 20 to 50 years, but a grim prognosis can result to a life expectancy of only 12 months after diagnosis.
Research has linked exposure to asbestos to other cancers in the lungs, kidneys, larynx and gastrointestinal tract, with a latency period of 15 to 30 years.
These diseases can take as long as 40 years to mature and develop with doctors often diagnosing these in people after middle age. People exposed to asbestos in their work environment or in their homes are at high risk for such diseases.
Who Is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure?
Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for certain diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer and would be a primary basis of filing a claim against the asbestos industry and other negligent employers. Millions of Americans since the 1940s were exposed to asbestos dust in their homes and work environment, and this includes the following people:
* People who have worked in an asbestos factory, asbestos mining, asbestos milling and manufacture
* People who have washed the clothes of someone exposed to asbestos fibers
* Inhabitants of a home built with asbestos materials or structures that was renovated using asbestos materials
* Workers in a construction, power production, insulation work, automatic break manufacture and shipbuilding yard where asbestos materials are used
* Workers in a demolition or drywall removal company particularly those who have processed old buildings and houses with asbestos materials
* People not working directly with asbestos but are working near areas with heavy exposure to asbestos dust
* Family members of those heavily exposed to asbestos at work as dust and fibers can be brought home through clothes, shoes, skin and hair.
Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
Although it is quite difficult to get a diagnosis for asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma because symptoms are similar to other illnesses, the history and background of the person can determine possible connection with asbestos. There is a big probability that people with a history of asbestos exposure and exhibited symptoms of known asbestos-related diseases will be at high risk.
People exhibiting the following symptoms and have a history of exposure to asbestos dust and fibers, or had contact with people with known asbestos exposure, should let this fact known to their physicians so proper tests and diagnosis can be performed. These tests are necessary to determine involvement of asbestos so that the affected person can file a proper claim against their employers.
The following are these symptoms:
* Dry cough
* Pain in the abdomen
* Swollen abdomen
* Nausea and vomiting
* High temperature
* Bowel and urinary problems
* Unexplained weight loss that occurred suddenly
* Spitting of blood
* Problems in swallowing
* Hoarseness in voice
The Legal Rights of People Suffering from Asbestos Exposure
A person exposed to asbestos in their work environment and have exhibited asbestos-related illnesses have every right to file a lawsuit against negligent employers. Such employers are those who are aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure but have not taken any precautionary steps to protect their workers from dust and exposure.
People who have contracted asbestos-related diseases will not be able to support themselves through work because of their conditions and will have no means to get treatment for their illnesses. People can win their legal cases and be properly compensated if they can provide the proper documentation and information regarding their exposure to asbestos.
Steps in Filing a Legal Claim against Negligent Companies
Manufacturers and employers would only settle a legal claim on asbestos-related illnesses if their exposure to asbestos has been proven and that a negligent manufacturer or employer has been properly identified. The following are steps to take in order to make a proper claim.
* Get the services of a lawyer specializing in asbestos-related lawsuits. Examples of such solicitors include asbestos lawyers or mesothelioma lawyers who only deal in asbestos cases. Look for a firm who has handled several cases and have won a considerable number of cases.
* Solicitors can guide you on how to ensure that the cause of the illness is asbestos exposure. This would require proper documentation of work conditions, safety precautions issued by the company, and other related documentations.
* The necessary medical evidences should be properly laid out to establish without a doubt that the illness contracted is asbestos related. This includes biopsy examinations from affected areas like painful lumps in the lung area. These findings should be properly documented and these should be backed by the medical facility that performed the diagnosis.
* Medicare can reimburse the costs of diagnosis and treatment for people with asbestos-related diseases. These people can also qualify for financial help from their state depending on applicable state worker compensation laws. These regulations may differ depending on the state so affected workers should get in touch with their state's worker compensation programs.
* Workers who were employed in a privately owned shipyard can be covered by the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. Other information on eligibility and additional information on how to file a claim can be obtained from the Office of Workers Compensation Program of the U.S. Department of Labor.
* For federal employees, FECA or the Federal Employee's Compensation Act will cover their compensations, which include medical and other expenses. Retired military personnel and their dependents can receive the required health care for their conditions at any medical facilities handled by the Department of Defense, or at a Veterans Administration or Public Health Service hospital if no DOD facility is present within 40 miles from their homes.
Filing a legal claim against an employer is a legal right of a person or worker who believes, and have supporting documentation to support it, that the illnesses that they have right now are caused directly or indirectly by exposure to asbestos dust and fibers in their work. People who will engage themselves in such endeavor should educate themselves properly on what they need and what they should prepare to establish a proper asbestos claim.