Asbestos has affected the lives of millions of Americans over the past few decades. Even after strict regulations regarding asbestos, the CDC found that more than 45,000 people still died from mesothelioma. Seniors made up a significant portion of these deaths and likely experienced exposure long before government agencies created and enforced asbestos regulations.
With numbers like these, it seems like an easy answer that, yes, you can sue for asbestos exposure. However, there are some complexities to consider, such as the fact that it could take decades before symptoms show and alert someone to previous asbestos exposure.
What Is Asbestos?
Incredibly enough, asbestos is an organic substance that occurs naturally in rocks and soil. Its fire-resistant properties, corrosion-resistant properties and durability made it ideal construction material for several decades. It worked well for its intended purposes, but the tiny fibers broke away over time and wreaked havoc on the health of workers and residents, alike.
How Do People Become Exposed to Asbestos?
Unfortunately, no one is immune to potential exposure to asbestos particles. While building regulations have greatly reduced the risk, they have not completely eliminated it. Consider these potential sources of asbestos exposure.
For years, the people facing the greatest risks were the people working directly with asbestos materials. These are some of the many people who suffered the greatest risks:
- Asbestos miners
- Shipyard and railroad workers
- Auto and aircraft mechanics
- Construction workers
- Boiler operators
Now that the government has flagged asbestos as a dangerous material, people largely encounter it in buildings already constructed using asbestos. In some cases, they nor the employer are aware of this at the time. The EPA banned the use of asbestos in construction in 1989 but started regulating it as far back as 1973. Buildings constructed before this time might contain asbestos materials.
Similarly, anyone living in a home constructed or renovated during or before the 1970s might suffer exposure to asbestos in the home. There was a mass movement to remove asbestos from buildings once the health risks became known, but some homes may have fallen through the cracks.
Renters are especially at risk because, unlike homeowners, finding a home does not include inspections and asbestos testing. Sometimes, regular household products also include asbestos in the ingredients.
What Should You Do After Exposure?
If you suspect exposure to asbestos, it’s important not to panic. Doing so might only cause unnecessary worry. This, in turn, could weaken your body’s defenses and immune system. The CDC recommends the following actions:
- Avoid any further exposure to asbestos.
- Get vaccinated against the flu and pneumococcal pneumonia.
- Have regular medical exams.
- Quit smoking.
What Are Some Important Factors When Determining Risk?
Sometimes, people are fortunate enough to discover asbestos exposure ahead of symptoms. This might occur when renovating a home or office building. In these instances, affected persons might need to turn to professionals to determine the overall risk to their future health. According to the CDC, the risk of future illness depends on these factors:
- The length and severity of the exposure
- The concentration of asbestos in the air
- How much time passed since the initial exposure
- Whether the individual already developed symptoms
- Whether the person smokes tobacco products
What Are Some Potential Illnesses Related To Asbestos?
Most people pinpoint asbestos exposure as the source of their health problems based on the specific types of illnesses they suffer. Keep in mind that your statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit generally begins at the time you receive a diagnosis for asbestos-related illnesses. So, once you receive a diagnosis, it’s time to preserve your health and consider your legal options.
Fibers from asbestos can get buried in the lungs and cause scarring. This makes it more difficult for people to breathe, which can grow worse over time.
This refers to the thickening of the membrane surrounding the chest cavity and lungs. It could also lead to fluid build-up. Both of these factors can reduce lung function.
Lung cancer occurs when a malignant tumor grows into the air passages and blocks them over time. People who smoke tobacco products have a much higher risk of developing this illness.
While this cancer is rare, it is commonly associated with asbestos exposure and tends to appear as much as 30 to 40 years after exposure. It is a cancer of the membranes in the chest cavity and may even spread to the abdominal cavity and other internal organs.
Who Should You Sue for Asbestos Exposure?
When an entity has a duty of care and causes injury or harm to someone else, courts might hold that entity negligent for the resulting harm. However, knowing who to sue also presents some complexities and could determine the nature of the case. Based on who becomes the negligent party and the state of the affected person, asbestos exposure cases could proceed as personal injury, workers’ compensation, premises liability or wrongful death cases.
Despite the ban on asbestos, some companies continued to create products that had hazardous material lurking in the ingredients. For example, a successful class-action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson claimed the company knew of the cancer-causing asbestos in its baby powder.
In some cases, courts might decide to hold sellers available. This becomes likely when the manufacturers are overseas and are more difficult to sue for everyday Americans. Amazon does not consider itself responsible for potentially dangerous products sold on its platform, but some courts insist the seller should accept some accountability. This could set a precedent for some unique asbestos cases in the future, but no prominent ones have yet emerged.
More often than not, people sue their employers for asbestos exposure. Most of these workers are seniors who worked in at-risk industries before the bans took place. However, even modern-day workers could become exposed when renovating spaces. If the employer knew a risk existed of asbestos on-site, the likelihood of liability climbs.
When renters encounter asbestos in their homes and develop illnesses, the original entities they rented from could become liable. Unfortunately, properties change hands so frequently, that it could become difficult to track the original owner down. He or she could have also passed away, which creates complexities for pursuing a lawsuit.
In most jurisdictions, sellers have a legal responsibility to disclose any information about the property regarding hazards. Some sellers and their agents ignore these regulations and sell homes they know or suspect contain asbestos. New homeowners might move into these spaces and develop symptoms years later or they could encounter asbestos directly during renovations. This could become an incredibly complex case, especially if a lot of time passed.
How Can You Sue for Asbestos Exposure?
Before pursuing this lawsuit, completing a thorough investigation is necessary. Your attorney might also consider whether an active class-action lawsuit exists that you can join. In some cases, your attorney might recommend pursuing an independent lawsuit.
If you do not yet have symptoms from asbestos exposure, establishing plausibility and estimating compensation could become difficult. An experienced attorney can review the case and determine how to proceed.
It all starts with a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers at Norris Injury Lawyers. We treat all our cases confidentially and do not charge our potential clients for case reviews. Contact our team to get started.