When a life is taken prematurely from needless exposure to asbestos, families and loved ones are sure to have lots of questions. Below, we’ve outlined a series of facts related to some of the more common questions family members and friends of the deceased might have. Often, these facts are leveraged in legal proceedings to prove asbestos exposure led to the disease that took a loved one’s life.
Quick Facts for Families
Whether or not your family is considering filing a lawsuit in the wake of a loved one’s untimely death from mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, it is key to know all of the facts.
Did You Know?
According to recent data, an estimated 12,000-15,000 Americans die each year from mesothelioma and other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos. Yet each year, only about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed. Compared to some other more common diseases, there is relatively little information on mesothelioma, including, maybe most crucially, what families should do after a death.
“Why me?” “What caused this disease?” “Who should be held responsible?” These are just a few of the common questions we receive from the family members of mesothelioma victims, many of whom are desperate for answers they can’t readily find. Understandably, many families are frustrated because they were never told they still have legal rights after their loved one’s untimely death.
In spite of this, it’s crucial that you act on your rights—for both your sake and the sake of other families who could be hurt by asbestos in the future. But first, you need and deserve answers.
Below, we’ve put together a list of the most important things you should know about mesothelioma, your rights, and what to do next.
Mesothelioma Is Caused Directly by Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once widely used in the U.S. to manufacture consumer, industrial, and construction products. Despite its variety of uses, the mineral is (and was) a known carcinogen with no safe level of exposure. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can become lodged in the outer layer of the lungs, known as the “pleural lining,” where they form deadly tumors that lead to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
Occupational Exposure Is the Most Common Cause of Mesothelioma
Most people who die from mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos on a regular basis throughout the course of their employment. The risk of exposure was greatest for workers in the mining, construction, and automotive industries, as well as all 5 branches of the U.S. military. In fact, about 33% of mesothelioma cases involve exposure in the Navy or shipyards alone.
Mesothelioma Can Be Caused by Second-Hand Exposure to Asbestos
Asbestos fibers, which are no thicker than a strand of hair, can easily cling to fabrics. Often, workers unknowingly exposed their families to asbestos through the fibers brought home on their work clothes. What’s more, countless fibers linger and spread to other fabrics throughout the home — yet all it takes is a single asbestos fiber to put anyone at risk of developing an asbestos-related illness.
Mesothelioma Deaths Are Completely Preventable
Many families are unaware that asbestos-related deaths were (and are) avoidable. The American public only started learning about the serious health risks associated with asbestos in the 1970s. Asbestos companies discovered the health risks of asbestos exposure back in the 1930s but chose to hide this information and put profits ahead of people, continuing to manufacture and sell dangerous products. As a result, thousands upon thousands of workers and families were needlessly exposed.
Mesothelioma Is Expensive to Treat
Mesothelioma is a long-latency disease, meaning it can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years to develop. Typically, by the time it’s diagnosed, the disease has progressed too far and become so aggressive that treatment involves multiple procedures and follow-up visits. The estimated costs are staggering: after paying as much as $4,000 out-of-pocket even before diagnosis, the average patient is set back more than $400,000 in their first year of treatment alone.
Legal Compensation Helps Families Offset Financial Burdens
Not surprisingly, most families simply cannot afford to pay for the treatment their loved one needs—let alone the associated costs of caregiving and a funeral. Taking legal action not only holds asbestos companies accountable for their deceit and reckless behavior, it can also provide victims’ families with much-needed financial support in the aftermath of a disease that is extremely expensive to treat. Many families receive compensation within months of filing a claim.
Family Members Can File a Claim on Behalf of a Loved One
Even if a family member has already passed away as a result of mesothelioma or an asbestos-related disease, surviving family members may be able to file a claim on behalf of the deceased. That said, as with most legal matters, there are strict time limits, which are sometimes as short as 1 year or less. Each state is different, so a family should contact an attorney immediately if they are interested in looking into a potential claim on behalf of someone who has already passed away.
Mesothelioma Claims Are Not Usually Made Against Employers
With most mesothelioma claims, compensation usually comes from the companies that manufactured or sold asbestos-containing materials. Many of these asbestos companies declared bankruptcy to try to avoid responsibility, but courts have ordered them to put trust funds aside for asbestos victims. These court-ordered trusts are currently estimated to be worth over $30 Billion.
Generally, Filing an Asbestos Claim Does Not Affect Other Benefits
In some cases, victims of asbestos exposure or their families are worried that filing an asbestos lawsuit will impact a person’s ability to collect Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, Social Security disability insurance, or pension a family may be receiving. In most circumstances, pursuing a claim and being awarded compensation has no bearing on other benefits a person may be receiving.
Families Come First
Whether or not a loved one wished to pursue legal action against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products or the companies that worked with or around asbestos, they most likely did not want to leave their family behind with mountains of medical-related debt.
Sokolove Law has been helping the victims of asbestos exposure and their families for over 40 years. During that time, our firm has helped thousands of families recovering from the aftermath of the devastation caused by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Our firm has helped over 6,000 families and recovered over $4.3 Billion for those harmed by asbestos.