Mesothelioma is a rare form of lung cancer strongly associated with asbestos exposure. Though mesothelioma accounts for only 0.3% of cancer diagnoses in the U.S. annually, doctors diagnose an average of 3,000 new cases every year. If you have mesothelioma, you need an attorney who has experience helping asbestos exposure victims pursue just compensation.
Understanding the Causes of Mesothelioma
Out of the four types of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma is the most common. It occurs in the lung lining and affects 3.05 out of every 100,000 people in the United States. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of malignant mesotheliomas.
How Long Does It Take To Get Mesothelioma?
When someone inhales asbestos fibers, these fibers get trapped in the lung. They remain lodged in the lining and eventually lead to cancer. It can take anywhere from 20-50 years from exposure to asbestos and the initial signs of malignant mesothelioma; however, the average latency period is 40 years. The time it takes for a person to develop this form of cancer depends on:
- How long the exposure lasts: Repeated exposures over a longer duration can reduce the latency period.
- How much asbestos exposure: Higher concentrations of fibers can also reduce the latency period.
- What the person’s occupation is: Certain occupations are at a higher risk of malignant mesothelioma due to both exposure duration and concentration.
One of the most significant challenges in diagnosing this form of cancer is that it develops slowly. The late onset often means that people don’t connect their symptoms with asbestos exposure. The longer it takes between symptom development and diagnoses, the lower the survival rate.
Who Is at Risk?
Men are 4.6 times more likely than women to get mesothelioma because they are more likely to work in occupations with a higher asbestos exposure risk. Those who work in construction, mining, automotive mechanics and firefighting industries are particularly at risk. However, even those who simply work in old office buildings may be exposed to asbestos.
Though the longer and more concentrated the contact, the higher the risk, mesothelioma is not confined only to those in the aforementioned industries. If you have this rare form of cancer, a Birmingham, AL, attorney can help you gather evidence to pursue a legal personal injury claim.
Is Mesothelioma a Concern in Alabama?
Between 1999 and 2017, 3,845 people in Alabama died from asbestos-related diseases. Of those, 616 had mesothelioma. Industries in Alabama that are associated with asbestos exposure include:
- Shipyard and shipbuilding jobs
- Oil refineries
- Power plants
- Military installations
An average of 31 deaths per year in Jefferson County are due to asbestos-related illnesses.
Knowing Your Legal Options
Mesothelioma is almost exclusively linked to asbestos exposure. The disease has a 5-year survival rate of 10%. It requires expensive medical treatment and leads to loss of income and significant pain and suffering. Regardless of how you came into contact with asbestos, you have legal options for pursuing compensation. It’s essential to know the options available to you. A Birmingham, AL, mesothelioma attorney can help you understand your choices and guide you through the complicated legal process.
What Are the Legal Challenges?
Often, the greatest challenge is constructing a case when the time that lapses between exposure and illness is lengthy. It may be difficult to gather the documentation and evidence you need to prove liability on the part of the responsible party, particularly if the original company changed hands at any time. What’s more, you generally must demonstrate that you had consistent asbestos exposure for at least five years before you can receive compensation.
If you or your loved one worked in an environment with inherent elevated risks, you would benefit from known exposure. Those for whom the exposure source is uncertain or unknown face significant obstacles in determining liable parties. While Birmingham has several known asbestos exposure sites, other potential sources exist. If you moved here from another city or state, your case might be more complex.
What Are the Relevant Alabama Laws?
Though asbestos is not illegal in the U.S., federal and state governments regulate its manufacture and use. Which regulations apply in your case depend to some extent on the circumstances under which you were exposed and may impact what resources you have available in seeking compensation. In Alabama, the most relevant laws include:
- Alabama Code Section 6, Article 35: This section of the state’s civil codes directly addresses asbestos-related claims, including how cases are handled when companies change hands.
- Statute of Limitations: For personal injury lawsuits, the statute of limitations for filing a claim is two years. In the case of mesothelioma, the clock doesn’t start ticking until the victim receives a diagnosis.
- Contributory negligence: The Alabama courts use contributory negligence to determine liability and compensation in personal injury cases. When the court finds plaintiffs contribute to their injuries, they cannot collect payment. The defendant will attempt to demonstrate that you or your loved one was at least partially responsible for developing mesothelioma to avoid paying damages.
A lawyer who has experience with asbestos legal claims understands the complexities of these cases and can help you build a strong case.
Do You Have To File a Lawsuit To Receive Compensation?
Companies that manufacture and use asbestos have known for nearly 100 years how dangerous asbestos is, yet this substance is still in use. However, numerous companies had to file bankruptcy after losing lawsuits for asbestos-related injuries. Under the conditions of their bankruptcies, these companies established trust funds to pay for future asbestos claims. Additionally, businesses that still operate often compensate those who acquire asbestos-related illnesses through trust funds designated for this purpose. If you or your loved one meet the guidelines established for a trust claim, that is the primary route to compensation.
For those who have mesothelioma, filing a lawsuit is another route. In some cases, claimants can file for both trust fund compensation and lawsuit compensation. An experienced mesothelioma attorney can assess the particulars of your situation and help you determine which route is best for you.
Getting Experienced Legal Representation
Asbestos-related claims are different than many other personal injury cases. Establishing proof of liability and presenting a clear case for negligence requires in-depth knowledge of the disease, the laws and defense tactics. You want someone who has significant experience handling mesothelioma cases.
What Does a Mesothelioma Lawyer Do?
A mesothelioma lawyer can help you gather the evidence to support your claim. An attorney who is practiced in this area assesses the details of your case and determines what options are available for you. The lawyer also represents you in trust claims and the courtroom.
What Happens When You File a Lawsuit?
If you choose to file a lawsuit, your attorney will negotiate your claim with the defendant’s lawyers before your case ever goes to trial. Most personal injury cases, including those for mesothelioma victims, settle outside the courtroom.
Hiring a Birmingham, AL, Mesothelioma Lawyer You Can Trust
Mesothelioma legal battles are complex and time-consuming. You need a team on your side that you can trust to handle your case. At Norris Injury Lawyers, we have years of experience working with mesothelioma victims to pursue the compensation they are entitled to. Let us fight for you while you fight your illness. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.