Mesothelioma is an extremely deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos – there is no dispute about that. In the vast majority of cases, the asbestos exposure that eventually leads to mesothelioma tumors developing in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart is caused by products that contain asbestos, or exposure in the asbestos supply chain including asbestos mining, transportation, and working with asbestos in factories.
Employees have a right to safety in the workplace, and consumers have a right to safety from the things they buy. As a result, companies that make asbestos products, or who require their employees to work with asbestos in raw form (such as mining or using it in a factory) or in the products they use (such as drywall, insulation, concrete, tiles, etc.) can be held responsible for this exposure.
Should I File a Mesothelioma Claim?
Before even filing a lawsuit, many people ask themselves whether they should sue the company responsible for their exposure. Often, people have a bad opinion about lawyers, lawsuits, and the “litigious society” that surrounds us today. But this view paints much too simple a picture.
The legal system is set up for one reason, and one reason only: to give justice to those who have been wronged. Like any system created by human beings, it is of course not perfect. However, when it comes to product liability issues such as asbestos exposure, it can give individuals who develop health problems (like mesothelioma) a way to pay for their medical expenses, lost income, and ongoing care.
The truth is, asbestos has been known to cause diseases for well over a hundred years – in fact, even the Ancient Greeks knew that asbestos was deadly. Yet companies have continued to use this dangerous substance, disregarding all medical and other evidence of its toxic nature. Even today, asbestos still is not banned, and it is still mined, imported, and used to manufacture a variety of products. Just in the past couple years, asbestos has been found in everything from typical products, like brakes and construction materials, to children’s products like toy forensic kits and crayons.
The science and medicine are clear, and companies that have chosen to ignore the evidence that asbestos is a harmful substance should be held liable for their actions. However, the decision about whether to file a mesothelioma claim is ultimately up to the individual.
Step 1: Gather Diagnosis Details
In order to file a claim, you (or a loved one) first need a diagnosis of mesothelioma. Because mesothelioma is a rare disease and can often present symptoms similar to other diseases and conditions, this can mean months of testing – and even potentially misdiagnosis.
It’s important to keep a good record of all the details surrounding your diagnosis. This includes details like:
- When you first started feeling symptoms
- What doctors you saw (primary care, cancer specialists, second opinions, etc.)
- What diagnostic tests were done
- Whether there were any other diagnoses or misdiagnoses
A lot of this information will be part of your health history, but you should include any relevant information that isn’t part of your medical file as well. It is a good idea to keep a notebook or journal so that you can write down how you felt physically and emotionally, how the tests affected you, and notes about what the doctors told you.
Also, it is a good idea to have a trusted friend or family member go with you during diagnostic tests and when hearing the results. They may remember things that you forget, and may be able to help you understand what the doctor is telling you.
Step 2: Determine Where You Were Exposed to Asbestos
Given that asbestos was used so ubiquitously through the last century and a half (and longer), there are few places that are safe from the potential for asbestos exposure. Many buildings older than about 30 years are extremely likely to have asbestos in them. Also, there are products out there that even today still have asbestos.
The most at-risk individuals for mesothelioma are veterans who worked on ships, airplanes, or vehicles that contained asbestos (or had parts with asbestos in them) and industrial workers such as factory employees, construction workers, miners, and similar occupations in which asbestos played a major role.
However, there are many others who have developed mesothelioma due to exposure elsewhere – at home, school, or even in an office building – or who were exposed secondarily, such as by asbestos dust on the clothing of a loved one. Thinking through both where you worked and where your loved ones worked is a big part of finding out where your exposure may have happened. You may need to ask family members and friends who can help you remember the jobs you and your close relatives held and may have become exposed.
Step 3: Get Professional Legal Help
When you have a medical condition or disease such as mesothelioma, you want a doctor who is trained specifically in dealing with that condition or disease. In the same way, it is important to do your research and find a law firm that knows the laws, regulations, and case history around mesothelioma and can help you and your family receive compensation to pay bills and recover lost income, as applicable.
Part of the reason you need a good legal team is that there are a number of different options through which mesothelioma patients and their families can receive help. These include:
- Veterans’ Affairs – The VA recognizes mesothelioma as a condition that is covered, depending on where you served and whether you were exposed to asbestos during your time of service. The VA can cover the full cost of treatment if you qualify.
- Asbestos Trust Funds – Many of the companies that used to make asbestos products have since gone bankrupt. However, as part of bankruptcy proceedings, they were forced to create trust funds to make payments to future victims of asbestos exposure. These funds are available to people who meet the trust fund criteria, depending on your work and exposure history.
- Multidistrict Litigation – Given the large number of people who have been diagnosed with health problems due to asbestos exposure, the U.S. court system has set up an efficient way for victims to receive compensation. You may be able to have your case transferred to an asbestos MDL, if the details of your exposure match those of the master complaint.
- Standalone Lawsuit – If the options above are not available to you, you still may be able to bring a legal claim against the company (or companies) that are responsible for your asbestos exposure.
Forget the late-night commercials and courtroom dramas that make everything seem scary and intense. Good lawyers will work with you and on your behalf to determine the best path to helping you receive compensation. They will also deal with any litigation and legal processes, giving you more time to focus on receiving treatment and recovering from your disease.