By Guest Contributor, Alex EidenAttorney Alex Eiden works in Asbestos Litigation at Weitz & Luxenburg.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Exposure to asbestos can cause several different types of severe illnesses: mesothelioma cancer, lung cancer and asbestosis. These diseases cause pain and suffering; mesothelioma is incurable.
The effects from exposure to asbestos can take decades to develop. People who were exposed 20 – 40 years ago are just now developing mesothelioma.
What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Family
Asbestos exposure can be from the workplace, home repair and improvement products, automobile parts, or through indirect exposure such as asbestos dust on clothes.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral bound together into fibers. It is heat resistant and strengthens material when mixed in. It has been used to line heaters and boilers, to insulate pipes, and as a key material in car parts such as brakes and clutches. It has also been used in floor titles, roofing shingles, caulk and joint compound.
The danger is that when products containing asbestos are cut, sanded or filed, they produce a dust that contains asbestos fibers. The fibers are so small that they cannot be seen but can be inhaled.
Asbestos fibers then lodge in the body and cause scarring of the lungs and protective tissues that surround the lungs, heart and other internal organs. The body reacts to these fibers and cancer can develop.
Types of Mesothelioma and Their Effects
There are three different types of mesothelioma, defined by the part of the body the cancer attacks.
Pleural Mesothelioma develops in the linings of the lungs. The pleura is the membrane that surrounds the lungs and allows them to expand and contract without contacting the inner wall of the chest. Pleural mesothelioma reduces that protection and makes breathing difficult and painful. This is the most common form of mesothelioma.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma develops in the abdomen, which is also protected by a layer of pleura. Cancer developing here can cause the liver, pancreas or other organs to fail.
Pericardial Mesothelioma affects the pericardium, the layer of pleura that shields the heart from the rib cage. It reduces that protection, leading to chest pain, difficulty breathing and possible heart failure.
Certain Occupations Involve Greater Risk of Exposure to Asbestos
Those most at risk are workers in jobs that require the handling, cutting, sanding or filing of products containing asbestos. These jobs include:
- Auto mechanics
- Construction tradesmen
- Power-plant operators
A worker does not actually have to handle the products. He or she risks exposure simply by being in an area where asbestos is present. These areas include:
- Assembly lines
- Auto repair shops
- Construction sites
- Power plants
- Steel mills
- Navy ships
Important Steps You Must Take
Medical tests are necessary to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should contact a lawyer to represent you.
There are several reasons to begin your case as soon as possible. Your claim depends on factors such as the type of cancer you have, where and how you were exposed, and the circumstances involved. Many states have a statute of limitations relating to claims. Most are based on the diagnosis date.
Your claim may be for pain and suffering, medical expenses, wrongful death and loss of income due to inability to work. You may also be able to claim damages for the effects on your spouse and loved ones. Mesothelioma does not just hurt the patient; the whole family suffers.
It is necessary to hire an experienced lawyer who can guide you in developing a case, building the needed documentation and securing the compensation you deserve for the damage done to you.
Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts
A good lawyer will seek to get you compensation either from a trust, settlement or trial verdict. In addition, many companies, either defunct or currently operating, have created asbestos bankruptcy trusts to compensate people with illnesses due to asbestos exposure. An attorney’s help is critical to assist you in filing the complicated paperwork.