Victims of mesothelioma are entitled to compensation. Here’s where we unpack compensation sources for asbestos injury victims and families.
Mesotheliomas are a type of cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos. About 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States. ¹
More men are diagnosed with mesothelioma than women and are typically over the age of 70 when diagnosed. Mesotheliomas are often advanced at diagnosis, with a poor survival rate.
Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos in the workplace. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
Who’s At Risk for Mesothelioma?
Mesotheliomas are a specific kind of cancer that affects tissues lining the lungs, chest cavity, abdominal cavity, and internal organs. Mesothelioma cancers are linked to asbestos exposure.
Asbestos in Building Materials
Asbestos is a group of fibrous mineral-like materials that are naturally resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion.
Because of its heat resistance and fibrous properties, asbestos makes a terrific form of insulation. Asbestos was also mixed into cement, cloth, paper, and other materials to make it stronger.
Asbestos was an ingredient in all kinds of construction materials because it worked so well. Unfortunately, asbestos turned out to be very toxic to workers, giving off tiny microscopic fibers that enter the body, most often as inhaled dust.
Workers Exposed to Asbestos
Workers who touched or breathed asbestos fibers are at risk. The longer the exposure, the more danger of developing mesothelioma cancer. Sometimes a worker’s family members were exposed as well, by fibers and dust carried home on the worker’s clothing and shoes.
Mesothelioma cancers may not show up for many years, sometimes after a worker has already retired. Workers with the highest exposure to asbestos and the highest risk of developing mesothelioma are those who worked in:
- Asbestos product manufacturing
- Building construction
- Military service
- Industries that manufactured insulation, roof shingles, car brakes, and other products with heat-resistant qualities
Three out of four mesothelioma victims have the type affecting the tissue surrounding the lungs, essentially a lung cancer. Less often, mesothelioma affects tissue around the abdomens, heart, or testicles.
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma depend on where in the body the disease develops.
Mesothelioma Claims and Lawsuits
Individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma can file claims and lawsuits to seek compensation for their:
- Medical bills
- Out-of-pocket medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Surviving family members of a person who died from mesothelioma can pursue compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. Family members may ask for:
- Medical expenses accrued before death
- Funeral costs
- Loss of mentoring and companionship suffered by family members
- Other types of emotional distress suffered by family members
Mesothelioma Compensation Sources
Depending on how the mesothelioma victim was exposed to asbestos, there are four general avenues for personal injury and wrongful death claims:
1. Workers’ Compensation: Mesothelioma victims who were exposed to asbestos at work have a right to expect their employer’s workers compensation insurance to cover their medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and a portion of their lost wages.
Pain and suffering compensation is not available under workers’ comp benefits.
Workers’ compensation claims can be made even after the worker has retired, if coverage is still available. Death benefits should also be available to the worker’s immediate family.
2. Asbestos Trust Funds: Many companies involved in making asbestos products have gone out of business or filed bankruptcy. Worker’s comp may no longer be available.
However, some companies have set aside money in special funds specifically to compensate asbestos victims and their families. There are numerous asbestos funds with an estimated total of $30 billion in available compensation.
3. Veteran’s Benefits: The U.S. military recognizes that members who served between the 1930s and mid-1970s are at high risk of developing mesothelioma cancers.
Military service members with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases are eligible for Veteran Asbestos Exposure benefits when the service member meets two criteria:
- Was exposed to asbestos while serving in the military
- Was not dishonorably discharged
4. Filing a Lawsuit: Personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death actions may be filed by or on behalf of an individual victim. The victim or their family might blame more than one entity or company the victim’s illness and suffering.
For example, if a loved one died of mesothelioma, the family may sue a company that failed to protect its worker from asbestos. The family may also file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who misdiagnosed the disease, allowing the cancer to spread before it was correctly diagnosed.
Class Actions: A class action lawsuit is when a group of people, through one or more attorneys, file a lawsuit on behalf of a group of “similarly situated” victims.
State and federal courts have their own procedural rules governing mesothelioma class action lawsuits. The court will review the petition, and if the legal requirements are met, they will certify the lawsuit as a legitimate class action.
You may have the right to “opt in” to a class action suit against the manufacturer, construction company, or other company responsible. If you opt-in, you won’t have to pay any legal fees. All costs are paid in advance by the attorneys representing you and the other members of the class.
When your class action is settled or won at trial, the attorneys will be paid a percentage of the total amount, and the balance will be distributed to you and the other victims.
Winning Asbestos Injury Claims
If you decide to opt-in to an existing class action lawsuit, you will automatically be represented by the attorneys for the class.
To have any chance of individual success in a mesothelioma claim or lawsuit, you will need the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney to guide you through the process.
Don’t wait to talk to an attorney. There are specified deadlines, called statutes of limitations, during which a mesothelioma claim must be settled or a lawsuit filed. Each state has its own limitations period. If you miss it, you will forfeit the opportunity to seek compensation for yourself or your family.
Evidence needed to win an asbestos injury claim includes:
- Proof of injury: Gather copies of all related medical records and bills for the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma or any other potentially asbestos-related illness.
- Other damages: Your attorney will also want to see receipts for out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages and receipts for funeral costs.
- Proof of exposure to asbestos: Collect any proof you have about your exposure to asbestos. You’ll also need to show how long you were exposed, for example, how many years you or your deceased loved one worked for the company.
An attorney will help you figure out if you should file a lawsuit, apply for worker’s compensation, file for veteran’s benefits, or seek compensation through an asbestos trust fund.
Just as important, your attorney will protect you from asbestos litigation scams that prey on suffering victims and families.
Most attorneys don’t charge for an initial consultation. You can talk to more than one attorney to find the one who has the most experience with asbestos litigation.
For lawsuits against big companies, the attorney may have to advance significant funds to pay for experts to prove the company was negligent, and to prove the direct link to the asbestos injuries.
Your personal injury attorney will usually handle mesothelioma cancer cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning the attorney’s fees won’t be paid unless they win your case.
Time is running out. Don’t wait to find out what a skilled attorney can do for you and your family.
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