Can I sue for asbestos exposure?
Exposure to asbestos can cause serious medical problems, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. By filing an asbestos lawsuit, you can hold the company or corporation that caused your exposure financially accountable.
You may be able to seek compensation for medical treatment, lost income, and the long-term consequences of your condition. Likewise, you could recover wrongful death damages if asbestos exposure led to your loved one’s death.
File a mesothelioma lawsuit
You may be able to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against various parties whose negligence caused your exposure to harmful asbestos fibers. For example, you could get compensation through a case against any of the following types of companies:
- Manufacturers of products that contained asbestos
- Companies that used asbestos products and exposed their workers to them
- Companies who failed to warn workers or consumers that their products contained asbestos
- Manufacturers of safety equipment that were supposed to prevent asbestos exposure, but failed
Companies that produce or use products that contain asbestos—or issue equipment that fails to protect their employees from exposure—are liable for the resulting harm this causes. They have a duty to only market and distribute products that they know are safe for consumer use. Likewise, if a product is dangerous in some way and can cause illness or injury, companies have a legal duty to warn others of the potential risk.
If you develop an asbestos-related disease after exposure to this harmful substance, you may have a legal claim against one or more companies. You could collect compensation for the losses you have already suffered, as well as future damages. Filing a lawsuit against those companies is a primary means of getting legal relief in these cases.
Types of mesothelioma lawsuits
The news is full of stories about lawsuits regarding asbestos exposure that caused plaintiffs to develop mesothelioma, lung cancer, and similar diseases. As a result, you might wonder whether you can bring your own lawsuit or if you have to join a class action to get any compensation.
Individual lawsuits for asbestos exposure
In an individual lawsuit, you are the only plaintiff suing the companies responsible for your injuries from inhaling asbestos fibers. If the case is successful, you receive an individual settlement or jury verdict based solely on the facts of your case. As a result, you have more control over whether to accept a settlement amount or proceed to trial.
Everyone who gets sick from inhaling asbestos has unique circumstances. For example, you may have suffered more exposure than another person, and you may have a more or less severe diagnosis. You can emphasize these differences in an individual lawsuit and request the appropriate amount of compensation for your situation.
Class action lawsuits
In a class action lawsuit, mesothelioma lawyers represent a large group of plaintiffs, referred to as the “class.” These plaintiffs’ cases share specific characteristics, including similar injuries or damages. For example, the plaintiffs in a class might all be diagnosed with mesothelioma from asbestos exposure after working for a particular company.
Judges must approve class actions before they can move forward. They must also choose a representative counsel to represent the interests of the entire class. Finally, judges must approve any settlements reached in the class action, as well as any notices given to class members.
When you are part of a class action, you have less control over the case’s outcome, and any resulting settlement or court award gets divided among all class members. Therefore, the compensation that you receive in a class action lawsuit could be less than what you would receive in an individual lawsuit. However, this depends on the number of class members, the size of the award, and other factors.
Asbestos trust fund claims
Due to the sheer number and size of settlements and jury verdicts in asbestos-related cases, some companies have gone bankrupt. However, some of the bankrupt companies created trust funds to pay settlements to victims of mesothelioma and lung cancer.
This option may be available to you for securing compensation if the responsible companies in your case created one of these funds. Note that taking this route involves a separate claims process.
Personal injury lawsuit
When people develop lung cancer or mesothelioma from asbestos exposure, they can pursue a personal injury claim for damages. Victims may file such claims against companies that failed to warn them of their exposure to asbestos or the medical problems that it could cause.
Companies have a duty to warn consumers and employees about dangerous conditions or products. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and failure to warn individuals of possible exposure is a breach of their legal duty of care. As a result, these companies can be legally liable for the illnesses of those who unknowingly suffered exposure.
Wrongful death lawsuit
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family members of mesothelioma and lung cancer victims can seek compensation from the responsible companies. Typically, if a victim would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit had they lived, their surviving family members may file a wrongful death suit.
Survivors can seek additional damages in wrongful death suits that are unavailable in personal injury suits, such as:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of companionship by close family members
- Loss of financial support and service
Wrongful death lawsuit procedures differ in every state. For example, state statutes determine who can file these lawsuits and what types of compensation they qualify to seek. Hiring legal representation can help you understand your options and next steps if you believe your loved one’s diagnosis and subsequent death were preventable.
Who is eligible to file an asbestos lawsuit?
Generally, anyone who has developed mesothelioma or lung cancer due to exposure to asbestos fibers can file asbestos lawsuits. More specifically, you must be able to meet the following qualifications:
- You have medical records showing that you have a diagnosis of mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease.
- You can show proof of your contact with asbestos fibers, usually through employment records regarding the type of materials you handled and the equipment you used.
- There is a link between the asbestos exposure and your medical diagnosis.
People in some occupations were more likely to come in contact with asbestos than others. These occupations, among others, include:
- Construction workers
- Railroad workers
- Shipyard workers
Furthermore, if you lost a loved one to mesothelioma or lung cancer due to asbestos exposure, you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. Usually, only certain close family members qualify to file wrongful death suits, such as a:
- Parent or grandparent
The statute of limitations on asbestos lawsuits
Every state has a statute of limitations, or a time limit, on how long you have to file an asbestos lawsuit. This statute of limitations varies depending on the laws of the state that apply to your case. Since these laws place strict limits on your ability to file lawsuits, you should always consult a law firm as quickly as possible.
You may be eligible to file an asbestos lawsuit in different states, depending on your circumstances. For example, you might be able to file your lawsuit in the state in which:
- You currently live
- You suffered exposure to asbestos
- The company is located
Additionally, statutes of limitations may differ according to the type of asbestos lawsuit that you are filing. For example, a different statute of limitations applies to a wrongful death lawsuit than to a personal injury lawsuit in some states. If you miss this deadline, you are generally barred from filing a lawsuit and seeking compensation in court.
Why file an asbestos lawsuit?
Filing a lawsuit is a way to get compensation for illnesses that you develop from inhaling asbestos fibers. Companies that made products in the past contaminated with asbestos are responsible for the safety of their products. When their products cause deadly diseases like mesothelioma or lung cancer, victims have a right to hold them liable for their resulting losses and expenses.
Inhaling asbestos fibers causes cancer
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that inhaling asbestos can lead to mesothelioma—a cancer in the lining of membranes in the chest and abdomen—as well as lung, larynx, and ovarian cancer. Over time, workers exposed to asbestos fibers in the air breathe them into their lungs, where they become lodged. Then, these fibers cause tissue inflammation and cell damage, creating the conditions for cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. An estimated 235,000 or more people will develop cases of lung cancer in 2021—many of which are attributable to asbestos exposure—and over 131,000 will die from this illness.
Treatment of asbestos-related illnesses is costly
If you develop an asbestos-related disease, you are likely to be facing many unanticipated medical expenses. You also may be unable to work at your former job or profession. This situation can leave you facing financial hardship.
Seeking compensation from those companies that are directly responsible for causing your illness is one way to cover your medical costs and make up for your financial losses.
Although money will not allow you to regain your health, it can help ensure that you get necessary medical treatment and still be able to pay your everyday bills. Plus, you can hold these companies accountable for exposing you to asbestos and the subsequent harm this caused.
Filing a mesothelioma lawsuit
Every lawsuit—including mesothelioma or lung cancer lawsuits—is different. However, most have the same general steps that you must complete before you can resolve them. You can expect to go through all of the following steps as you pursue compensation for mesothelioma or lung cancer after exposure to asbestos.
Choosing an attorney
Choosing a mass tort lawsuit attorney is an important first step in the process of filing a lawsuit against a major company. You should consider the following questions as you decide which lawyer to choose:
- Does this attorney have experience handling asbestos lawsuits like mine?
- Do I get answers when I ask questions or express concerns about my case?
- Will I be able to get in touch with my lawyer as needed?
- Will I be mostly working with a lawyer, paralegal, or assistant?
- Am I comfortable with this lawyer representing my interests?
- What are some of the firm’s past case results?
- What steps will this attorney take in my case?
Case review and preparation
The next step is for an attorney to review your case thoroughly and gather evidence in support of your claim. The attorney will evaluate your case based on the evidence and determine the best strategy for moving forward. Some of the evidence that a lawyer will likely obtain in your case includes:
- Your employment records, including job title and job functions
- Level, duration, and description of asbestos exposure
- Records from your employer about the usage of products containing asbestos
- Records from the product manufacturer about the distribution of their products
- Your medical records, including your diagnosis, test results, treatment, and prognosis
- Testimony from witnesses that can attest to your medical condition, exposure to asbestos on the job, or the level of asbestos in certain products that you used
- Bills, receipts, and other proof of expenses related to your condition
Your legal team will use all this evidence to support your claim for compensation. Before your attorney files a lawsuit, negotiations with the insurance companies for the defendants may begin.
These negotiations will likely be ongoing as your attorney attempts to secure an appropriate settlement in your case, even after you file a mesothelioma or lung cancer lawsuit.
Filing a mesothelioma lawsuit
You must file your lawsuit in court before the statute of limitations expires. If you do not file the lawsuit in time, you risk being unable to get any compensation for the negligence that led to your or your loved one’s illness. As the deadline can differ depending on various factors, your attorney will identify how long you have left to file when reviewing your case.
Filing a lawsuit generally involves filing a complaint with the court that briefly explains what happened to you, who is responsible, and how you want the court to hold them responsible for their actions in causing your illness. You name all responsible parties as defendants in your lawsuit. Then, all the parties involved will receive proper notice from the court that you have filed a lawsuit against them.
Once you file a lawsuit, most courts hold a conference with the attorneys and schedule various deadlines for the different stages of the case. These dates include a date for trial, in case you do not reach a settlement in your case. You also should be aware that these dates are not always definite—they can change over time as situations change and events occur.
Identifying and estimating your recoverable damages
Once your lawsuit is filed, you have the right to seek compensation for economic and non-economic losses related to your mesothelioma or lung cancer diagnosis. Potential forms of compensation may include:
- Medical bills to treat your or your loved one’s illness
- Home health and personal care services
- Lost wages and loss of future income
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and loss of enjoyment of life
You may receive these forms of compensation by reaching a settlement with the defendants in your case. If you cannot reach an acceptable settlement despite having a strong case, you may proceed to trial. In that case, you could receive a damages award based on the court’s final verdict.
Responses and discovery
All the defendants in your case have a specific amount of time to file a response to your complaint. They generally will file a response or answer stating that they are not responsible for your illness and that they did nothing to cause you any harm.
Next is the discovery phase of the case. Discovery is the exchange of information and documents between the two sides of the case. All parties to a lawsuit must give each other all their evidence about the case so that they know what to expect if it goes to trial. Some common types of discovery include:
- Interrogatories, or written questions from one party to the other
- Requests for production of documents, or written requests for documents
- Depositions, or the questioning of witnesses under oath by the other party
The discovery phase can take a long time, and each party will have deadlines to hand over documents and information to the other parties. In some cases, those deadlines may be extended one or more times, as needed.
Settlement or trial
A lawsuit ends by the parties either reaching a settlement agreement or going to trial and letting the judge or jury decide the case. If the parties reach an agreement or settlement in an asbestos lawsuit, one or more defendants usually agree to pay the plaintiff a certain amount of compensation.
In a settlement, the defendants may or may not admit any wrongdoing. By signing a settlement agreement, you also forfeit your right to pursue the defendants for further compensation related to your asbestos exposure.
So, if you develop further complications in the future that require medical treatment, you will not be able to go back and get more compensation for those expenses. This underscores the importance of identifying and calculating each of your damages carefully.
If the parties cannot agree to a settlement, you have to resolve the case by going to trial. At trial, the judge and jury hear the evidence from both sides. Then, the judge gives the jury instructions so they can make a decision about your case.
Resolving an asbestos lawsuit
Whether you reach a settlement or receive a damages award after trial, the goal of a successful asbestos lawsuit is to compensate you and your family. Compensation cannot take away your medical diagnosis, but it can ensure that you receive proper medical treatment and still be able to take care of your bills. Likewise, compensation can help you take care of your family if you lost a loved one to an asbestos-related illness.
The amount of compensation that you can receive in an asbestos claim can vary significantly based on different factors, such as:
- The length and the extent of the asbestos exposure
- The number of responsible companies involved in the case
- The severity of the mesothelioma or lung cancer, as well as the prognosis
- The strength of the evidence to support your claim
Other factors may also affect the damages that you receive in an asbestos lawsuit, including:
- The area of the country
- The nature of the company whose negligence is at issue
- The level of responsibility that the company bears for the resulting illness
- Whether other factors existed that could have contributed to the illness
- How you pursue compensation
Notable asbestos lawsuit verdicts
Asbestos lawsuit verdicts have ranged widely across the country. However, these are some of the more notable asbestos lawsuit verdicts:
- In April 2021, a California jury awarded $4.8 million to a veteran who developed mesothelioma against a talc producer, whose product he used daily for 22 years.
- In 2018, a longshoreman received a $24.26 million verdict in California after he contracted mesothelioma from working around asbestos in shipyards.
- A New York auto mechanic received a $75 million verdict in 2017 when he developed mesothelioma after working with gaskets in car engines containing asbestos.
Some large corporations have also lost jury trials in asbestos litigation. You are likely to recognize the names of the liable companies in the following cases:
- As reported by Reuters, Johnson & Johnson and another talc company received a verdict of $117 million against them due to selling asbestos-contaminated talc products that caused a man to develop mesothelioma.
- In 2003, the New York Times reported that U.S. Steel was ordered to pay $250 million to the widows of a steelworker who died of mesothelioma.
- In 2006, a New York jury found DaimlerChrysler responsible for $25 million in damages for a brake mechanic. According to occupational and safety magazine EHS Today, he developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure from working on Chrysler brakes.
As you can see, verdicts do vary on a case-by-case basis. On the whole, however, jury verdicts in asbestos litigation have continued to rise over the years. In addition, the amounts of jury verdicts tend to be greater than settlements in these types of cases.
A brief history of asbestos litigation
Although asbestos claims began in the 1930s, those cases were settled by companies and workers privately, rather than through the court system. By the 1970s, however, Congress began passing restrictions on asbestos usage.
As a result, people began to file more and more asbestos cases in court. Courts also began to apply legal standards from other types of product liability cases to asbestos cases.
The first asbestos lawsuit
A worker at an insulation manufacturer who was exposed to asbestos for 33 years was the first person to sue a company for asbestos exposure, in Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation. He won that lawsuit in 1973. That litigation paved the way for other workers and individuals adversely affected by asbestos to sue companies whose negligence caused their exposure.
By 1991, 715,000 asbestos cases were pending in state and federal courts across the United States. Individuals have continued to file asbestos lawsuits consistently over time, as mesothelioma and lung cancer resulting from exposure tend to have lengthy incubation periods. Nonetheless, the number of new asbestos cases have declined significantly over the years, largely due to several factors, including:
- Lower rates of asbestos usage
- The aging of the population that was exposed to asbestos
- The settlement or resolution of thousands of asbestos cases
Thousands of asbestos cases are still pending today
Even so, asbestos-related diseases tend to have a lengthy incubation period, and these cases often take a long time to resolve. As a result, thousands of asbestos cases are still pending in court. Moreover, litigation will continue as long as individuals continue to develop health problems due to previous asbestos exposure at their jobs, which was a widespread phenomenon for many years.
Hire an asbestos lawsuit attorney today
If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos fibers while on the job or in another situation and developed cancer, you have legal options. An asbestos lawsuit attorney can represent you and build a mesothelioma or lung cancer lawsuit on your behalf to hold the at-fault parties financially accountable for exposing you or your family member to a known carcinogen.
By filing a lawsuit, you could collect compensation for your expenses and losses related to the illness. Simply fill out our contact form if you are seeking an asbestos attorney to represent you. We can help you find a law firm to meet your needs and handle your asbestos claim.