Asbestos is a group of minerals that occur naturally. The material has several characteristics that make it appealing for use in numerous industries. It is heat- and fire-resistant, stands up to chemical exposures and doesn’t conduct electricity. In the 1860s, insulation containing asbestos appeared in the U.S. and wasn’t banned until more than a century later. Even though scientists learned of how hazardous asbestos is when people inhale the fibers in the 1920s, it is still widely used in the U.S.
The Risk of Asbestos Exposure
When people inhale asbestos fibers, they can get trapped in the lining of the throat, lungs or stomach or in organs. Once lodged within, they often remain, causing trauma and leading to scarring in the soft tissue. Over time, the damage can develop into cancer or other diseases.
Any level of exposure may potentially lead to an asbestos-caused illness or cancer. Asbestos exposure can cause several non-cancerous conditions that may significantly reduce physical health and require medical treatment. Some of these may also be life-threatening, such as asbestosis. However, cancer is a more serious concern for those whose jobs place them in consistent and long-term contact with asbestos. Asbestos exposure is linked to:
- Lung cancer
- Throat cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Pharyngeal cancer
- Colon cancer
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is almost solely associated with asbestos exposure. It has a low survival rate because victims don’t often receive a diagnosis until it is in an advanced stage.
Often, these cancers take decades to develop, making it difficult to draw the connection between asbestos exposure and the disease. For mesothelioma, as many as 50 years may lapse from the time of exposure until the first signs of illness. Receiving a diagnosis of any one of these diseases is devastating. You should be able to focus your time and energy on treatment rather than spending it on tracking down liable parties and pursuing the compensation you are entitled to. An experienced Birmingham, AL, asbestos exposure attorney from Norris Injury Lawyers can alleviate those burdens while you concentrate on your health.
Anyone can come into contact with unhealthy levels of asbestos. However, several occupations are at high risk for asbestos exposure. Some of those who are most susceptible to concentrated exposure levels include:
- Automotive workers
- Military personnel
- Shipyard workers
- Construction workers
Another high-risk group includes anyone in or around the World Trade Centers during and following the 9/11 attack. The buildings contained high concentrations of asbestos. When the towers collapsed, the asbestos was released into the air. First responders, building occupants and people who lived or worked nearby are all at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
Asbestos exposure can have devastating outcomes. A severe disease racks up medical expenses, reduces or eliminates income and causes incalculable pain and suffering. It creates stress and suffering for the victim and loved ones. Asbestos causes more work-related deaths every year than any other cause.
Between 1940 and 1980, 27 million workers in the U.S. came into direct contact with asbestos. Even after the federal government implemented regulations for exposure and imposed safety measures in the 80s, 1.3 million Americans still work in high-exposure conditions. An average of 3,000 people in this country receive a mesothelioma diagnosis every year.
New research finds that 40,746 died of asbestos-related diseases in 2019. In Alabama, asbestos-linked illnesses caused an estimated 3,845 deaths between 1999 and 2017. During the same time, mesothelioma took 616 lives in this state. 37 countries plus all of the European Union have banned asbestos, and Iceland was the first in 1983. Asbestos is not allowed in any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development except the U.S. and Mexico.
The Legal Battle
If you or a loved one has an asbestos-related disease, you should not have to work so hard to get the compensation you deserve. When you work with experienced asbestos exposure attorneys, they can handle the legal battle for you. Asbestos victims often face many obstacles when seeking compensation. The first is usually making the connection between the illness and asbestos exposure.
Though mesothelioma and asbestosis are linked almost exclusively to asbestos exposure, the other cancers and conditions have other causes. Even if you worked in a high-risk industry, you still must establish that asbestos caused your illness. You need to compile all of your medical records, obtain professional medical opinions, and create a detailed timeline of potential exposure. Once you can show that asbestos caused your condition, you need to prove liability.
Establishing liability is the next major hurdle in the legal battle. Though you may link your work history with your diagnosis, constructing a solid argument for holding a company liable is often challenging. Alabama’s contributory negligence law makes it even more so. This state is one of only a few that adheres to the contributory negligence doctrine.
If the court determines that a plaintiff has any level of responsibility for their injuries, the plaintiff is ineligible to receive compensation. It doesn’t matter if the defendant was 99% liable; the victim loses any rights to obtaining financial compensation. You can be reasonably sure that the defense will build an argument designed to lay at least some of the blame on the victim to avoid responsibility. A practiced asbestos exposure lawyer can help you construct a solid case that places negligence entirely on the liable party.
Another challenge with proving liability arises from the frequency with which companies change hands. While Alabama Code Section 6, Article 35 ensures that asbestos-exposure victims can still collect damages when companies transfer ownership, it limits the successor company’s liability to the fair market value of assets at the time of the transfer, potentially impacting the outcome of a claim.
Choosing the Right Path
There are two paths to filing a claim in Alabama. The first and most common is through a trust claim. In most cases, the only way a victim can obtain compensation is via trusts that companies establish specifically for awarding damages to asbestos-exposure victims. The courts do not handle this type of claim. The other route to settlement is to file a lawsuit. However, to do so requires that the plaintiff meet specific criteria. A Birmingham, AL, asbestos exposure lawyer assesses your case to determine which option is right for you.
Filing on Time
Though facing a devastating diagnosis can be overwhelming, you must act quickly to file a claim. Alabama’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years. In asbestos-related cases, the two-year time limit begins when you receive your diagnosis. Unfortunately, this means you have a short amount of time to determine when your exposure occurred and who is responsible.
Working With a Birmingham, AL, Asbestos Exposure Lawyer You Can Count On
Navigating the legal complexities of an asbestos-exposure claim takes a significant amount of time and resources, both of which are better spent on your health. Let the asbestos exposure attorneys at Norris Injury Lawyers put their experience and knowledge to work for you. You can count on us to work quickly to build your case and file on time. Contact us today for a free consultation.