The thought of losing a loved one to a preventable disease is difficult to bear. If you or someone close to you is suffering from mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer caused by asbestos exposure, you have legal rights that must be protected. Asbestos and mesothelioma are serious occupational diseases that can take decades to show any symptoms. Workers from many different industries may have been exposed to asbestos over the years, and this cancer-causing material is still present in some older structures today.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma forms a malignant tumor in the lining of the heart, abdomen, or lungs when a person inhales asbestos fibers. Mesothelial cells, a layer of specialized cells, line the inside of the space around the heart, and the inside of the chest and abdomen. The outer surface of most of your internal organs is also covered by these cells. The cell lining is known as the mesothelium.
Over 3,000 new mesothelioma cases are diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease is more prevalent in older people. The average age of mesothelioma diagnoses is 69. This may be due to many changes that have been made regarding workplace exposure to asbestos. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency finally banned asbestos use. The EPA also required school systems to inspect their buildings for asbestos and cover up or remove the material so it wouldn’t get into the air.
About Asbestos and Mesothelioma
In most cases, asbestos exposure is not a problem, provided that the fibers do not become airborne. However – while repairing older equipment that was manufactured using asbestos, or during a home renovation, these fibers can be released into the air as soon as the material it was used in has been compromised (broken drywall for example). Some specific occupations that are common in Georgia are at a far greater risk of exposure.
These can include (but are not limited to):
- Sheet metal workers
- Construction workers
Unfortunately, this disease does not expose itself until decades after the incident occurred, which makes it very difficult to detect at an early stage.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
It’s important to note that diagnosing mesothelioma can be very difficult – especially in the early stages of infection, as this disease has been known to take decades to develop in victims to the point where it becomes fatal.
With this in mind, some symptoms may be vague and sometimes mistaken for signs of other medical conditions.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, please consult your physician immediately, despite this disease having an almost 100% mortality rate, there are treatments available to help alleviate the associated pain and discomfort.
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the face or arm
- A heavy feeling in the chest
- Pleural Effusions (a buildup of fluid between the lining of the lungs and the chest cavity)
- Weight loss
- Chest or back pain
- Chronic hoarseness, difficulty swallowing or coughing up blood
Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace
Throughout much of the 20th century, asbestos was used all across America. This mineral exists in a fibrous form naturally and is resistant to electricity, chemicals, water, and heat.
It was incorporated into thousands of household, construction, and commercial products. The products include sealants, paints, joint compound, roofing, flooring, drywall, insulation, gaskets, pipes, bricks, cement and concrete, and fireproof coatings. Asbestos can also be found in hats and gloves, lawn furniture, flowerpots, mattresses, rubber, plastics, and electrical appliances.
A person’s health is put at grave risk when they work with asbestos. Exposure to asbestos has been proven to cause a variety of serious diseases, including cancer.
Between 1940 and 1979, around 27 million workers were exposed to asbestos, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. While there is still a degree of risk in many occupations, regulations have reduced the risk of workplace exposure.
Asbestos exposure above the recommended limit, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, was 6.3% of workers from 1987 to 1994. From 2000 to 2003, it was 4.3% of workers.
Asbestos Exposure in High-Risk Jobs
Workers regularly handle high concentrations of asbestos in high-risk jobs. The greatest potential for exposure to dangerous asbestos is in the mining profession. While asbestos mining has since ended in 2002 in the United States, most miners have been exposed to it, since certain minerals such as vermiculite and talc contain asbestos contaminants. In addition, miners used equipment that contained asbestos gaskets and asbestos insulation.
Libby, Montana, experienced the worst asbestos incident in W.R. Grace and Co’s vermiculite mine. Hundreds of miners and their families died from mesothelioma and asbestosis in Libby.
Occupations with an increased risk of asbestos exposure include:
- Textile mill workers
- Steel mill workers
- Shipyard workers
- Power plant workers
- Factory workers
- Industrial workers
- Construction workers
- Boiler workers
- Asbestos plant workers
- Asbestos mining
The main source of asbestos exposure in the United States is construction jobs. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 25% of the people who died of asbestosis were construction workers.
Asbestos exposure wasn’t regulated in the workplace until 1971 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA reduced permissible concentrations of asbestos in the workplace dramatically throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
These practices limited workers’ risks of developing asbestos-related diseases; however, there are consequences due to poor regulation. It can take several decades for asbestos-related symptoms to develop. This is known as a latency period.
Current Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is not banned in the United States, although it is regulated. Many automobiles, trains, ships, factories, schools, homes, roads, and buildings still contain asbestos.
Surprisingly, there are still numerous products made with asbestos today such as roofing materials and other construction products as well as automobile clutches and brakes.
Filing A Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Filing a mesothelioma lawsuit can help you as well as your family recover lost wages and medical expenses and hold the asbestos companies responsible for their actions. Mesothelioma is a costly disease to treat. Travel costs to a specialist alone can add up in no time. Compensation from a mesothelioma case can offer you the flexibility you need to pay for any up-front treatments that your insurance company may not cover. Filing a mesothelioma claim will help you take care of yourself during a difficult time in your life.
How Mesothelioma Cases Work
Any party who was responsible for making or using products containing asbestos could be held responsible for any injuries these products caused. Some examples of parties that can be held liable in a mesothelioma lawsuit include:
- Product manufacturers
- Manufacturers of component parts containing asbestos
- Distributors and wholesalers
- Any company that employed workers to use products containing asbestos
It’s important that you understand deadlines regarding how much time you have to file a mesothelioma case. States determine the laws surrounding mesothelioma litigation, and these requirements differ from state to state. For instance, time limits are put in place by state governments on how long people have to file a mesothelioma lawsuit (statute of limitations).
Statute of Limitations for Mesothelioma Cases
In most asbestos and mesothelioma cases it takes years for symptoms to develop. Your rights may be affected by the statute of limitations, which limits the amount of time you have to initiate legal proceedings.
Do not delay. If you are unsure of your symptoms, consult a doctor and then reach out to an experienced Georgia-based mesothelioma and asbestos lawyer for help. Personal injury can be a complicated process and at The Eichholz Law Firm, we can help guide you through that process.
Some other symptoms may include muscle weakness, sensory loss, and nausea, which are often confused with having a flu. If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms and has a history of possibly being exposed to asbestos, it is extremely important to seek immediate medical attention.
Mesothelioma Lawsuit Settlements and Payouts
The amount of compensation a victim may receive from a wrongful death lawsuit or an asbestos injury case can vary from case to case. A person’s estate or a patient may have received jury awards and settlements worth several million dollars. Trust payouts are typically less than what a claimant may be able to receive in court.
It can take some time for claimants to receive a mesothelioma settlement. Some plaintiffs have had to wait anywhere from a few months up to as long as a year to receive a check. States have their own individual time limits for mesothelioma claim payouts.
The exact settlement amount a claimant receives is always kept private, as they are bound by confidentiality contracts. There are some occasions, however, where mesothelioma amounts have become public. Some notable mesothelioma lawsuit settlements include:
2003: North America’s largest raw steel producer, U.S. Steel Corp, was ordered to pay over $250 million dollars to a former employee who had developed cancer from asbestos exposure.
2005: In Madison County, Illinois, a jury ordered U.S. Steel Corp to pay Roby Whittington, a 70-year-old former employee, $250 million dollars because he was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos fibers. The verdict was broken down as follows: $50 million dollars was awarded for compensatory damages, with an additional $200 million for punitive damages.
2011: Nancy Lopez was awarded a $10 million dollar settlement by a circuit court judge. Nancy, an employee of the Jackson County courthouse, had been exposed to asbestos during a renovation project conducted by U.S. Engineering Company.
November 2016: In Los Angeles, Philip Depoian was awarded $18 million dollars by a Superior Court jury for a mesothelioma-based talcum powder lawsuit. This was a record-setting lawsuit for L.A. He had been exposed to talcum powder products containing asbestos at the barber shop where his father once worked.
February 2020: More recently, a New Jersey state jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay over $750 million dollars in punitive damages to four plaintiffs who developed cancer after using the company’s baby powder for years.
Helping Victims of Mesothelioma
The Eichholz Law Firm is committed to helping those diagnosed with mesothelioma find justice and fair compensation. Our attorneys will work with clients on their mesothelioma cases from beginning to end. Mesothelioma cases require attorneys who are specialized in handling asbestos-related cases. We understand the complicated claims process and have taken on powerful asbestos companies. The Eichholz Law Firm has years of experience handling these types of lawsuits.
Our expert mesothelioma attorneys will take care of everything for you, including seeking reimbursement from asbestos companies. Contact us today at 855-551-1019 or fill out an online contact form to speak with one of our legal professionals.