Perhaps one of the most disturbing things about modern medicine and its connection with the law is how complacent we’ve become with certain deadly diseases. Technical names for diseases and diagnoses are becoming all too common in our society.
One of those is the horrible affliction known as mesothelioma. Forty years ago this would have been an unheard of term, but now it is prominently mentioned in news reports and commercials concerning health care. Celebrities such as renowned actor Steve McQueen have died from this showing that the disease is no respecter of rank or social class.
Mesothelioma has claimed the lives of thousands and many more are trying to deal and cope with the disease. If you or someone you love has been affected by exposure to asbestos and has developed mesothelioma, then here are the things that you absolutely need to know.
The asbestos-mesothelioma link
Mesothelioma is a “rare, asbestos-related cancer that forms on the thin protective tissues that cover the lungs and abdomen” (http://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/). Doctors diagnose about 3,000 people a year in the United States with this disease and most of them are brought on by exposure to asbestos in the workplace. It is true that asbestos use has declined sharply because of its carcinogenic nature. However, the cancer can take anywhere between ten and forty years to develop after the initial exposure to asbestos. Although new buildings will not have asbestos, old ones still might and people could have been exposed as far back as the 1960s and 1970s and are only now showing symptoms.
How asbestos causes cancer
People who work in buildings with asbestos—generally in places like shipyards, factories, schools, or government buildings—are at risk for developing mesothelioma. Although prolonged exposure does increase the chances to getting the disease, even a single exposure has been known to cause the cancer. Asbestos gives off fibers into the air that is then breathed in by a person. These fibers deposit in the tissue of the lungs where they accumulate causing tumor growth. These tumors can grow and metastasize to other parts of the body, causing multiple forms of cancer to attack the body.
Those who have developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos in the workplace can sue for damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Just being exposed to asbestos does not allow a person to sue for damages. Instead, they need to have been injured in some way such as through developing asbestos-related cancer. If you bring such a lawsuit, you may be able to sue both the company that manufactured the asbestos and the company that employed the person when he or she was exposed to the asbestos. Many of these manufacturing companies have been bankrupt for decades, but payment can still be received from victims’ trust funds and insurance companies that have taken on the affairs of the company’s legal obligation.
Some states (including California, Louisiana, and Tennessee) have instituted a one-year time limit on lawsuits. That means that a person has only one year after he or she is diagnosed with the cancer to bring such a lawsuit. After that, they may not sue at all. If the victim has died, then his or her spouse have anywhere from one to three years to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, depending on the state of the case. As with many such cases, time is of the essence in filing a claim.
Damages in an asbestos case
Fortunately for many victims of mesothelioma, many of the lawsuits are settled out of court inside of one year. If the case does go to trial, the final disposition of the case may take as much as two or three years. It is not easy to estimate a dollar amount for such cases. A person may sue for lost wages, medical expenses, and payment for the victim’s pain and suffering. If you contact an attorney, most will take the case on contingency, meaning they will not charge up front but will take anywhere between twenty-five and forty percent of the monetary award as payment for the case.
If you or someone you love has developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos, you must realize that you do have legal rights and you do not have to suffer in silence. The attorneys at Wolf & Pravato will be happy to meet with you to discuss your case and apprise you of your rights. Click HERE to find out more information.