Personal Injury

Asbestos

If you have worked in construction or the building trades industry for many years and you believe you were exposed to asbestos during that time, you have rights that experienced attorneys can help you exercise to obtain a settlement or verdict. Contact us today for caring and conscientious legal help for your asbestos-related claim. Among the many threats construction workers face on a daily basis, exposure to asbestos is perhaps the most unforgiving. Of the 1.3 million workers at risk for exposure on a daily basis, construction workers form the majority. Because their work consistently involves renovations, demolitions, and the re-building of old structures (which often contain products which were made with asbestos), construction companies are required by law to comply with safeguards to protect construction workers from exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that has been used in various industries for construction and building purposes since the 19th century. Up until the 1970s, it was used regularly in building materials for insulation, pipefitting, boiler making, shipbuilding and repair, utilities and power plants, chemical plants and refineries, carpentry, and automotive repair.

In buildings built before 1980, asbestos was used regularly in vinyl floor tile, ceiling tile, adhesives, coatings, duct insulation for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, roofing material, insulated electrical wire and panels, and joint cement.

When disturbed, products which contain asbestos emit invisible fibers into the air, which can then be breathed in. Asbestos particles are suspended in the air for long periods of time, increasing the likelihood of asbestos exposure.

Exposure to and inhalation of asbestos fibers was proven to greatly increase the risk of asbestosis (a form of fibrosis), lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer linked directly to asbestos exposure. The latency period for these diseases can range from 20 to 40 years or longer. Therefore, many people who worked in construction between 20 to 40 years ago are just now being diagnosed with diseases related to asbestos.

There is no safe level of exposure to any kind of asbestos. The medical literate is full of cases where mesothelioma occurs after exposures to asbestos as short as a few days.

Of course that doesn’t mean that contracting an illness from asbestos today isn’t possible. In fact, a majority of buildings in the United States were built before 1980. With the push for renovation and urban renewal continuing a record pace, construction workers involved in the demolition of old buildings still face serious risks of asbestos exposure.

The U.S. Department of Labor provides builders, renovators, manufacturers, and other companies who work in areas where asbestos exposure is likely, with standards to protect their employees from asbestos exposure. In addition to laws, employers also have access to interactive compliance tools and third party companies to help guide them in maintaining an environment that can be worked in safely without risking exposure to asbestos.

But despite ample warnings from the government and verdicts in the courts that issue steep penalties for non-compliance with asbestos standards, many construction companies, faced with deadlines, tight budgets, or a simple ignorance about or disregard for the dangers of asbestos, will sometimes require construction workers to work in areas where asbestos exposure is extremely likely.

If you have worked in construction or the building trades industry for many years and you believe you were exposed to asbestos during that time, or if you have contracted an asbestos-related illness from work you did prior to 1980, you have rights that experienced attorneys can help you exercise to obtain a settlement or verdict. MichieHamlett asbestos attorneys have represented clients in asbestos cases for twenty-five years, and we know the many steps to take to obtain fair compensation for your asbestos exposure.

MichieHamlett attorneys also represent victims in cases involving exposure to other environmental toxins. Contact us today for a free consultation and to explore all of your legal options about environmental toxin exposure.

Mesothelioma

Every year, mesothelioma – a form of cancer caused by breathing asbestos dust – claims the lives of 2,500 people.[*] Victims who have suffered serious injuries or illnesses from asbestos exposure should seek the advice of an attorney to understand their legal rights.  Family members or loved ones of those who have died from an asbestos disease may also have a valid asbestos injury or wrongful death claim.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral used in construction and building industries since the 19th century.  Asbestos has a very high resistance to heat and chemicals, it is flexible, and it has a high tensile strength.  The problem with asbestos, however, is that it causes a number of lung diseases and illnesses, some of which are fatal.

Until the 1970s, asbestos was used regularly in building materials for insulation, pipefitting, boiler-making, shipbuilding and repair, utilities and power plants, chemical plants and refineries, carpentry, and automotive repair. Because most asbestos disease shows up years, usually decades, after the work exposure, an asbestos case may be filed years after the asbestos exposure took place.

Virginia has a strict two-year statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit for asbestos injury. The clock starts ticking when “a diagnosis of asbestosis, interstitial fibrosis, mesothelioma, or other disabling asbestos-related injury or disease is first communicated to the person or his agent by a physician.[†] Lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure is an example of a “disabling asbestos-related injury or disease.

Construction and building trades workers form the majority of the 1.3 million workers at risk for injury from asbestos dust exposure. Because their work involved the installation, building, maintenance and servicing of buildings, machinery, and equipment that contain asbestos or use it as a fire retardant or heat shield, they are the most susceptible part of the work force.  They also worked in the vicinity of others creating asbestos dust, which exposed all workers in the area.

These workers also, unknowingly, transported asbestos dust home on their clothes, hair, skin, boots, clothing, lunch boxes, thermoses, and cars.  When they got home, the dust became embedded in their flooring, carpets, drapes, rugs, and furniture, to be stirred up over and over again.  When laundry was shaken out before washing, homemakers and family members were exposed to high levels of asbestos dust. Thus, we unfortunately see spouses and children of workers being diagnosed with mesothelioma at an unacceptable level.

Mesothelioma is just one deadly illness that is caused by asbestos exposure. Other asbestos-related illnesses may include lung cancer, asbestosis, gastrointestinal cancer, respiratory complications, and more. The latency period – or time between exposure and diagnosis – for these diseases can range from 20 to 40 years or longer, which means many people who worked in construction two to four decades ago are just now being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases.

People who discover they are suffering from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses (or, if deceased, their spouse) have a good chance of recovering financial compensation for damages, either from the company that manufactured or installed the asbestos, or from an insurance company or asbestos victims’ trust fund that has assumed liability for the responsible company. This is true even if the original manufacturer has long since been sold, closed down, or even gone bankrupt, thanks to the formation of asbestos victims’ trust funds.

There is no safe level of asbestos. Even a few days’ exposure can lead to mesothelioma, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you – or a loved one – are a victim of an asbestos-related illness or death, you should seek the advice of a product liability attorney with experience handling asbestos cases. They will help you determine your eligibility to file a lawsuit or otherwise recover from asbestos trusts established by bankrupt companies. These cases are highly specialized and should not be entrusted to an inexperienced attorney.

Be sure to file your case before the statute of limitation expires. Each state has its own deadline during which victims of asbestos-caused cancer can file a legal action. This means that you only have a limited time to file an asbestos-related lawsuit; if you do not file timely, you could lose any right to be compensated for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, grief, solace, loss of companionship, and other forms of remuneration.

[*] Mazurek JM, Syamlal G, Wood JM, Hendricks SA, Weston A. Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality — United States, 1999–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017; 66:214–218. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6608a3

[†] Virginia Code Ann. § 8.01-249(4)

Article written by attorneys Greg Webb and Lisa Brook.