Mesothelioma develops mainly in people who have had extensive contact with asbestos, a material once widely used to manufacture insulation and other industrial products. At the same time, asbestos is highly carcinogenic, and people must take precautions working with the material. Companies that failed to protect or warn their employees about its dangers may now be facing expensive lawsuits as a result.
This has been happening within the past few decades because mesothelioma takes so long to develop. However, people have been filing lawsuits for physical harm caused by asbestos since 1929, making asbestos-related lawsuits the longest-running mass tort issue in the country. These afflicted individuals or their families are choosing to recover compensation for pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of consortium, medical expenses and punitive damages.
The hazards of asbestos have been widely understood for decades. At the start of the 20th century, a London physician discovered asbestos fibers in the lungs of a factory worker and determined that the mineral played a role in her death. A study published in 1918 was among the first reports to link occupational asbestos contact and detrimental health effects. In 1930, Johns-Manville, a major asbestos manufacturer, conducted an internal study of worker illnesses and fatalities but did not release the information. Even the U.S. Bureau of Mines stated as early as 1932 that "asbestos dust is one of the most dangerous dusts to which man is exposed." Many more discoveries point to a large-scale asbestos cover-up and conspiracy within the United States, which lasted well into the 1970s.
Because of this cover-up, many companies — those that made asbestos products and those that purchased them to make other items — can be held liable when a person is diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
It's important to note that the U.S. government does not fall within this category. Although the government — in particular, the military —mandated the use of asbestos-containing materials, lawmakers decided years ago that citizens cannot sue the government in relation to asbestos use. Instead, many mesothelioma victims have focused on pursuing cases against the product manufacturers.
Since asbestos was so predominant in industries, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact source of exposure. For this reason, some victims name dozens of defendant companies in their lawsuits. These companies have dedicated legal departments and often try to prove that the employee was negligent, not the company. As a result, asbestos lawsuits can be cutthroat and expensive, even for the defendants. However, the cost is negligible when compared to the multi-million dollar payouts the companies may have to make if the case goes to a jury trial.
When victims decides to go with a personal-injury case, they must file claims against those specifically responsible for the exposure. The victims may pursue financial compensation for pain and suffering, time away from work and any medical costs associated with the disease. If you were exposed to asbestos through a member of your family who worked with asbestos, you may also file suit. Also, any future claims are viable if you can prove you were exposed. If the injured person has passed away as a result of the asbestos-related disease, a family member may file a lawsuit instead.
Asbestos and personal-injury law are complicated subjects and require the expertise of a law firm with a background in this area. The specialty of mesothelioma litigation is growing, as the number of lawsuits is expected to increase in coming years. If you have mesothelioma and think you have a claim against a former employer or the product manufacturers, you need to understand your legal rights. Most attorneys will offer you a free consultation, and if they decide to take you on as a client, will work with you on a contingency basis. This will ensure that they are working hard to get you the best settlement possible.