There are three types: legal claims, benefits claims, and insurance claims.
Claims can be paid through several avenues, like lawsuits and asbestos trust funds.
Filing a claim requires a knowledgeable, experienced mesothelioma lawyer.
Each state has a different statute of limitations depending on the type of claim.
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. Asbestos has been known to cause diseases for well over a hundred years, yet companies have continued to use this dangerous substance and it’s still found in a variety of common items that we use today. Taking action can give victims a way to pay for their medical expenses, lost income, and ongoing care, however, the decision about whether to file a mesothelioma claim is ultimately up to the individual.
Mesothelioma patients and their family have several options for filing a compensation claim, including legal claims, benefits claims and insurance claims. Not every type of claim will be available to everyone, so it is important to talk with a good attorney who can provide insight about which option is right for you.
Claims made using a formal legal process, such as by filing a lawsuit or submitting a claim to an asbestos trust fund.
Claims made against benefits or entitlement programs such as workers’ compensation or veterans’ benefits.
Claims submitted to insurance companies for injuries incurred while covered, such as medical or property insurance.
Mesothelioma Legal Claims
Because asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, companies that expose their employees, customers, and others to the deadly substance can be held legally responsible for their negligence. Mesothelioma patients have several legal options for filing asbestos compensation claims in the courts or through an administrative process handled by asbestos trust funds. These claims can help recover medical expenses, lost income, and other related expenses brought on from an asbestos disease.
Legal Claims for Mesothelioma Compensation
How to File a Mesothelioma Legal Claim
Typically, mesothelioma patients or their families will need to file their claim through a lawyer experienced in asbestos-related litigation. The information required to file includes:
- Details about the individual’s exposure to asbestos (where, when, etc.)
- Duration of the exposure (e.g., over a period of 3 years)
- Effect of the exposure on the individual’s health
- Diagnosis details, including doctor information, list of diagnostic tests performed, official diagnosis and any misdiagnoses
It is important to start the process as soon as possible, since most states allow only a limited amount of time after a mesothelioma diagnosis in which to file a claim: anywhere from 1 year in California to up to 6 years in Maine. (The average is within 2-3 years for most states.)
Who Pays Asbestos Compensation Claims?
Mesothelioma compensation can come from several different sources, depending on the individual circumstances of the asbestos exposure. Different options will be available based on company or employer liability and when the exposure occurred, including:
- Asbestos Companies: Companies responsible for exposing workers, customers, or others to asbestos can be sued in court to be held liable. Mesothelioma victims can often receive money through a settlement or verdict.
- Asbestos Trust Funds: Many asbestos companies that have previously gone bankrupt have established asbestos trust funds to pay current and future claims filed by mesothelioma victims and others facing other asbestos-related diseases.
- Department of Veterans Affairs: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized mesothelioma as a covered disease for individuals exposed during their military service. Veterans may be able to have medical and related expenses paid through the VA.
- Insurance Companies: Even individuals who have already retired from their job may be eligible for worker’s compensation if exposed to asbestos on the job. Rules and availability differ from state to state, depending on where you worked.
Mesothelioma Benefits Claims
Another type of asbestos compensation claim that mesothelioma patients and their families can file is a benefits claim. This type includes entitlements that the individual is eligible to receive based on their work history, union membership, or a similar affiliation, and includes worker’s compensation and veteran’s benefits.
Worker’s Compensation Claim
Most mesothelioma patients have a known history of occupational exposure to asbestos, with the exposures occurring in industrial and other work settings, due to widespread use of asbestos products. Examples include:
- Construction sites
- Office buildings
- Home offices
The modern system of worker’s compensation started in the 1920s, right about the time when the first asbestos lawsuits were being filed against employers who used the deadly substance in their business. Today, every state has laws regulating worker’s compensation, although the rules for employers and employees differ from state to state, as does the processing for filing a claim.
While all states have some form of mandatory worker’s compensation law, the requirements vary based on company size. For example, a lot of states require companies of any size – including sole proprietorships with only one employee – to carry worker’s compensation insurance. Other states exempt businesses with few employees (e.g., five or fewer) from such requirements. Talking with a mesothelioma attorney who can explain the rules for your state is a good first step to getting money to help pay for your mesothelioma treatments.
For decades, the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces used asbestos in many applications. As a result, former veterans are the largest individual group to develop asbestos-related cancer today, with about 30% of mesothelioma patients occurring in former servicemembers. Although there are many, some examples of exposure include:
- Insulation on naval ships
- Brakes on land and air vehicles
- Construction of housing and other facilities on military bases
- Ammunition storage
- Military vehicles
In recognition of this fact, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has established a VA benefit specifically to address the epidemic of mesothelioma among those who have served. This veteran’s benefit provides tax-free money for disability claims, as well as dependency and indemnity compensation for those who pass away while on active duty, in training, or due to a service-related disability – such as mesothelioma.
To submit a veteran’s benefits claim related to mesothelioma, the veteran must have been discharged under any condition other than dishonorable, have been exposed to asbestos during their years of service, and provide medical documentation of their disease.
Mesothelioma Insurance Claims
In many cases, payment for mesothelioma treatments and related expenses can come from insurance claims. The most obvious type of insurance claim is medical insurance, but there may be other types of insurance that will pay on asbestos compensation claims, including property and casualty insurance and certain types of supplemental insurance.
Medical Insurance Claims
With the ever-shifting medical insurance landscape, it can be hard to know how much of the cost of cancer treatment will be covered by medical insurance claims. Coverage differs widely amongst insurers and policies, and after a mesothelioma diagnosis, most people are more immediately concerned about receiving care to increase their chances of survival, pushing the details about how to pay for it off until another time.
The best that mesothelioma patients and their families can hope for is that medical insurance claims will be paid promptly. Claims may even be submitted by medical staff directly, freeing up patients and family members to deal with tasks related to treatment and recovery, rather than financial burdens. On the other end of the spectrum, some insurance companies have instituted policies and procedures do little more than frustrate and arrest attempts to receive compensation, with appeals processes that can take months or even years to resolve. In such cases, it might be worthwhile to have a lawyer who can help you put pressure on insurance companies to pay claims.
Types of Health Insurance Plans
- Individual insurance plans: Private group insurance plans offered through employers, unions, and other organizations, which can be paid for using pre-tax earnings.
- Employer-sponsored health insurance: Private group insurance plans offered through employers, unions, and other organizations, which can be paid for using pre-tax earnings.
- Government health insurance: State- or federal-sponsored insurance plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits, or government employee health care plans that cover civil servants.
Disability Insurance Claims
Disability insurance can cover a wide range of situations and debilitations that prevent someone from earning an income through employment. It can come in a variety of forms, including paid sick leave, short-term disabilities, and long-term (including lifelong) disabilities. Most forms of disability insurance pay a guaranteed income, sometimes based a percentage of the income that the person would otherwise have earned without the disability.
Disability insurance can be offered through employers as a benefit, or it can be purchased directly from insurance companies. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may also be available for those who have worked jobs that required them to pay Social Security taxes.
The requirements for filing a disability insurance claim depend largely on the type of disability insurance coverage (short-term, long-term, etc.). For mesothelioma patients, disability claims can be based on a medical diagnosis of terminal cancer or surgery, especially if removal of a lung or another major organ is required as part of the therapy.
Supplemental Insurance Claims
In addition to basic medical insurance, some people may have access to various types of supplemental insurance that can help to pay for mesothelioma treatment. There are many different kinds of supplemental insurance available, from disability insurance to hospitalization insurance to even a specific type of supplemental insurance for cancer. Some of these may be offered as a benefit by employers or member organizations.
The amount that can be claimed by mesothelioma patients or their families will depend on the type of supplemental insurance they have and the policy’s details. It’s important to note that supplemental insurance is not intended as a substitute for standard medical insurance, and supplemental insurance claims are made separately in addition to regular health insurance claims.
Types of Supplemental Insurance Include:
- Critical Illness Insurance: Sometimes called “dread disease” insurance, claims are paid after the diagnosis of a life-threatening or degenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s, heart attack, or cancer.
- Hospital Insurance: While medical insurance may cover some of the cost of hospital stays, supplemental hospital insurance will provide a lump sum to help pay for additional hospitalization costs that might not otherwise be covered.
- Cancer Insurance: Some insurance companies offer supplemental insurance for cancer, which is triggered when the beneficiary receives a diagnosis of cancer, including (but not limited to) mesothelioma.
To make a supplemental insurance claim, it is usually necessary to submit documentation of your diagnosis, along with other information required by the insurance company.
Life Insurance Claims
For mesothelioma patients who have passed away, their surviving family members may be able to pay outstanding medical bills and other living expenses using money from a life insurance policy. While at this point it is too late to help the person suffering from mesothelioma, a life insurance claim can ease some of the financial burden for those who are left behind.
Filing a life insurance claim usually falls on the next of kin, such as a spouse or the oldest surviving adult child. While each insurance company may have its own requirements for claim submission, there are some common types of evidence typically needed to make a life insurance claim, including:
- Statement by the claimant/beneficiary
- Copy of the death certificate
- Clipping from a newspaper account of the individual’s death (such as an obituary)
- Documentation from the original life insurance policy
Statute of Limitations for Mesothelioma & Asbestos Claims
Each state has a different deadline for submitting personal injury claims or wrongful death claims, which are the two basic types of mesothelioma lawsuits that can be filed. Most states have a statute of limitations of 2 or 3 years, though some states require claims to be filed as much as 6 years or as little as 1 year after death or diagnosis of mesothelioma.
It’s important to understand the statute of limitations for each state to ensure claims are filed on time. Many patients feel that they may be too late to file a claim or question whether or not they qualify. A mesothelioma lawyer will help victims understand all of their options and fight for the compensation they deserve.