Is Mesothelioma Litigation Really Worth the Time and Effort?

By | October 26, 2013

Unlike other forms of cancer, mesothelioma originates from but one causal factor: asbestos exposure. Exposure to asbestos can happen in any number of circumstances, many of which occur on a daily basis for many people. The materials used in building construction, manufacturing workplaces and even school settings are just a few of the types of circumstances where asbestos exposure is possible.

Asbestos’ damaging effects on the body have been known for decades. In spite of this knowledge, asbestos manufacturers continued to use this deadly material to produce a wide range of products. Once the general public became aware of asbestos poisoning, mesothelioma litigation became a matter of protecting consumer rights.

If you or someone you know has suffered as a result of asbestos exposure, mesothelioma lawsuits provide a way to hold manufacturers accountable for negligence in the marketplace. Understanding your legal rights and options can help you decide whether to consult with a mesothelioma attorney.

Mesothelioma Exposures

For most of the 20th century, asbestos was used to make a wide range of building products. As a raw material, asbestos carries strong fire-retardant properties, which accounts for why it was so widely used for manufacturing purposes. Common uses for asbestos include –
• Interior walls
• Chimneys
• Floors
• Roofs
• Ceilings
• Insulation material
• Ceilings
• Ductwork
• Heating systems

Up until the 1980s, asbestos was a commonly used building material. This means any homes or buildings built before this time are likely to contain asbestos in one area or another. As long as the material remains intact and undisturbed, asbestos poses no immediate danger.

Over time though, building materials tend to breakdown. Since asbestos is a fibrous material, damaged surfaces release asbestos fibers into the air. When this happens, anyone breathing the air can inhale these fibers into their lungs. Once inside the lungs, asbestos fibers become lodged inside lung tissue and start the long process of destroying lung tissues.

The damage from inhaled asbestos fibers can take as long as 50 years before a person experiences any symptoms. This is a key characteristic of mesothelioma-related conditions. Asbestos poisoning has also been linked to other respiratory conditions, some of which include –
• Lung cancer
• Asbestosis
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

The long gestation period accounts for why manufacturers were able to conceal asbestos’ damaging effects. It also means someone who worked in a manufacturing plant or lived in a home that contained asbestos may not even know they have mesothelioma until decades after being exposed.

Legal Rights

Medical evidence establishing a direct link between asbestos exposure and lung cancers has been in existence since the 1930s. Regulations prohibiting the use of asbestos in building materials were not put into place until the 1970s. These factors coupled with mesothelioma’s long gestation period have made mesothelioma litigation the longest and most costly mass tort lawsuit in United States history.

To date, over 600,000 plaintiffs have filed mesothelioma lawsuits with over 6,000 defendants brought to trial. It’s estimated the total outlay for asbestos-related lawsuits may well exceed $200 billion. New lawsuits continue to be filed as more and more litigants are diagnosed with mesothelioma cancers.

Anyone affected by asbestos exposure has a legal right to hold negligent manufacturers accountable. With the associated treatment costs, loss of income and declining health, many affected people have spent large amounts of money towards treatment and living costs. Considering mesothelioma conditions are likely to reach the terminal stage by the time they’re diagnosed, many families stand the risk of losing loved ones in the process.

Unlike other types of cancer, mesothelioma is a preventable condition. The withholding of vital product information on the part of manufacturers places these companies at fault for failing to, at the very least, issue product warnings for asbestos-containing materials. Ultimately, protecting your legal rights is the only way these companies can be held accountable for their actions.

Legal Options

When considering filing a lawsuit, keep in mind that everyone’s case is different. The laws and regulations surrounding mesothelioma litigation are complex and require the expertise of attorneys who are well versed in dealing with asbestos-related issues.

Identifying when and where a person was exposed to asbestos becomes a key factor when filing a lawsuit. This information enables a mesothelioma attorney to track down the product manufacturers. Attorneys also review a person’s medical and financial records to determine what types of costs and expenses are involved with each case.

Compensation awards available through mesothelioma lawsuits can help litigants pay for –
• Medical bills
• Travel expenses for treatments
• Lost wages
• Pain and suffering
• Emotional support
• Costs not covered by insurance
• Funeral expenses

Anyone who has an asbestos-induced disease would do well to contact an attorney as soon as possible as these types of cases carry a time-sensitive element. The statute of limitations can vary from state to state. Cases filed after these time limits expire cannot tried. Litigants may also be able to file lawsuits in multiple states depending on the circumstances of their case.

When to File a Claim

Mesothelioma injury cases fall into one of two categories: primary asbestos exposure and secondary asbestos exposure. Primary asbestos exposure applies in cases where a person has had direct contact with asbestos materials. These lawsuits are typically between the litigant and the manufacturer(s). Secondary asbestos exposure applies in cases where a person has been exposed to asbestos through contact with someone who’s handled asbestos, such as a spouse or a coworker.

Cases involving primary and secondary asbestos exposures are filed as personal injury claims. Cases in which a loved one has died from asbestos exposure are filed as wrongful death claims. As each state has its own laws and guidelines concerning these cases, a person’s specific rights can vary depending on where a case is filed.

While mesothelioma may have only one known cause, any one lawsuit may involve multiple manufacturers in more than one state. Add to this the legwork involved with tracking down all responsible parties while adhering to state-specific guidelines and the importance of hiring a qualified attorney cannot be overstated. Ultimately, only a qualified mesothelioma attorney can determine whether your circumstances warrant filing a lawsuit.

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