Frequently Asked Questions about Asbestos and Mesothelioma

Q: What is asbestos?

A: A microscopic threadlike fiber, asbestos is a common mineral found throughout the world. It is mined and used in consumer products and construction materials because of its strength, flexibility, and heat-resistant properties. If asbestos becomes airborne and dust-like, it can be breathed into the lungs, where it lodges into the lining. Asbestos particles in the lungs can cause terrible - even fatal - diseases, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer that can take decades to develop after asbestos exposure.

Q: Who are the typical victims of asbestos diseases like mesothelioma?

A: Most typically, victims of asbestos disease and injury are people exposed to high concentrations of asbestos in industrial settings over extended periods. Workers in the following industries and professions have been historically at high risk: asbestos mining; manufacturing of asbestos-containing products such as insulation, piping, and ceiling and flooring materials; shipbuilding; welding, plumbing, pipe fitting and steam fitting; railroads; building demolition; and construction. Occupational exposure has declined drastically since the 1970s when federal and state governments alike started heavily regulating asbestos.

Q: I was exposed to asbestos in my previous career and now have mesothelioma - can I get any help?

A: People exposed to and injured by asbestos in their work may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. The states vary in their treatment of workers' compensation claims for asbestos-related diseases - some states treat them more restrictively than other disease claims, while others treat them more generously. In some states, and in some situations, workers may, in addition to receiving workers' compensation, be able to sue their employers for injuries related to asbestos exposure. Workers also may have legal claims against other potentially responsible third parties, such as insurance companies and asbestos manufacturers.

Q: I worked in the asbestos industry 40 years ago and have developed the asbestos-induced cancer mesothelioma. Is it too late to sue?

A: Deadlines, also known as statutes of limitations, for bringing asbestos lawsuits vary widely from state to state. Sometimes the deadline is calculated from the date of exposure and sometimes from the date of disease development. Some states have even enacted laws to revive expired asbestos claims or to make exceptions for asbestosis. Some states calculate a new deadline if you develop a second asbestos disease. Therefore, it is important that you speak to a knowledgeable attorney today to preserve what legal rights you may have in your jurisdiction.

Q: I heard my old employer declared bankruptcy because it was sued so often for asbestos injuries. I haven't developed asbestos disease yet, but I have a lot of anxiety that I will someday. Do I have any legal options?

A: You should speak to an attorney with experience in handling asbestos cases. Sometimes bankruptcy courts set up trust funds for present and/or future victims of asbestos. Your employer could be one of those companies with a trust fund. Depending on your jurisdiction, there may be other legal remedies for your fear of developing disease, or for the future danger that you may develop it. Finally, other potentially responsible parties may exist, such as asbestos manufacturers and insurers.

Q: My father was an asbestos miner. My mother recently died from asbestos-related cancer. Do I have any legal rights related to her death?

A: You should speak with an experienced asbestos lawyer right away to protect what legal rights you or your mother's estate might have. Before asbestos safety regulation began in approximately the 1970s, industrial employees who worked with asbestos commonly brought microscopic fibers home on their clothing, exposing their spouses or other family members when they handled the clothes during laundering. Your mother may have been a victim of this type of secondhand exposure. The laws that apply to these types of situations vary from state to state.

Q: My spouse has asbestosis and the stress of living with this disease causes her extreme anxiety and depression. Does she have any legal right to compensation for her emotional problems?

A: Some states recognize a right to recover damages for mental illness or emotional problems related to wrongful exposure to asbestos. You should speak with a skilled asbestos lawyer in your jurisdiction to determine whether your spouse has any available legal remedies in your state. For example, she may have a legal claim to workers' compensation and/or a potential claim against a former employer or another third party, such as an asbestos manufacturer or insurance company.

Q: I am a shipbuilder who was exposed to asbestos and I have lung cancer. I'd like to pursue my legal rights, but I am also a tobacco smoker. Should I bother?

A: Either exposure to asbestos alone or smoking alone increases your risk of developing lung cancer, but the risk becomes much higher when both risk factors are present. You should apply for workers' compensation and seek the advice of an experienced asbestos lawyer as soon as possible to determine your legal options. Whether you can bring lawsuits for your cancer based on your asbestos exposure, and whether it matters legally that your own action by smoking increased your risk of lung cancer, depends on the laws of your state.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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