Exposure to asbestos – a naturally occurring fibrous mineral – can cause a number of serious health issues. It has been established as a carcinogen because one of the most common illnesses it causes is mesothelioma, a fatal lung cancer.
Those who contract an asbestos-related illness and want to hold someone liable would do so through a personal injury lawsuit. In the case where someone passes away, their family can file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. Anytime that an injured person or their surviving family wants to hold someone responsible, they would need to do so under negligence laws.
Negligence is a nationally recognized part of personal injury law that, while differs slightly from state to state, is fairly straightforward. There are four components in determining negligence, according to the personal injury attorneys at Hill Law Firm. If evidence of negligence exists, then a lawsuit can proceed.
The first component is duty of care, meaning that it must be established that the party in question had a duty to the victim. This means that the defendant has a legal obligation to treat the plaintiff with care. If duty of care is established, then the question becomes whether that duty was breached. The third step is to confirm that a breach of duty is specifically what caused the injury or illness. Finally, it must be established that there are damages from this injury, such as medical bills or lost wages.
Let’s take a closer look at who could be held liable in various situations where asbestos exposure occurs.
Asbestos Exposure at Work
Workplaces are the most common setting for asbestos exposure. This is because most health issues from asbestos only develop after long periods of repeated exposure. Occupations that involve exposure to asbestos on a daily or weekly basis are hotspots for where asbestos diseases are developed.
Some of the occupations with high amounts of asbestos exposure include drywall installers, pipe fitters, HVAC workers, carpenters, power plant workers, and Navy seamen.
So, can your employer be held liable for workplace asbestos exposure? You would need to prove, with clear evidence, that your employer was aware of the asbestos and failed to provide adequate warning or protective gear. Employers can also be held liable in cases where asbestos followed an employee home on their clothes and infected their loved one(s).
Another potentially liable party would be the product manufacturer who makes the asbestos-filled equipment being used at a job. An attorney will be able to investigate further and help determine liability. If you suspect that you are being exposed to asbestos at work or there is another unsafe situation occurring, you can make a complaint to OSHA.
Asbestos Exposure in the Navy
For many years, Naval ships were built using materials containing asbestos. Navy seaman who spent years on a boat may have been exposed to large amounts of asbestos, before anyone was aware of the dangers. But can you sue the military?
One way that victims in the Navy can get financial help is by applying for disability benefits through a VA claim. Another is to sue through the Jones Act, which protects Naval seamen who get injured on the job.
Another way that mesothelioma victims can get compensation is from an asbestos trust fund. These funds are established to pay asbestos-related claims on behalf of manufacturers or other entities who used asbestos in their products.
Asbestos Exposure at Home
Despite many old homes and apartments containing asbestos, it is highly unlikely to have enough exposure at home to get sick. Most asbestos is tucked up in the ceilings or drywall, and is not being inhaled on a daily basis. It’s only when doing construction that homeowners may be exposed to large amounts of asbestos, however, most contractors know about asbestos in homes and take precautions. Contracting an illness in this type of scenario is unlikely. In a case where construction workers inhaled a lot of asbestos while working on an old building, the property owners could potentially be responsible, but again this is rare.
A final way that someone may be exposed to asbestos outside of work is from a product, according to the asbestos attorneys at The Williams Law Firm, P.C.. Product liability claims exist for victims of product-related injuries, and some products still contain asbestos to this day. Some examples of products that may contain asbestos include chalkboards, ceiling tiles, talc powder, and paint. In this type of case, the company or manufacturer who made the product may be held liable. Like in all injury cases, strong evidence of negligence is required.