Asbestos exposure can lead to an extremely dangerous form of lung cancer known as mesothelioma. If you’ve worked near asbestos, discuss it with your doctor; people are not always immediately symptomatic for the cancer asbestos causes. Generally, asbestos exposure does constitute grounds for legal action, but only if a claimant’s situation meets specific criteria.
Personal injury lawsuits exist to help injured individuals recover their damages when other parties harm them through negligence or intentionally harmful actions. However, negligence does not constitute grounds for legal action on its own; the plaintiff must have suffered some type of actual harm or tangible damage from the negligence to have grounds for a lawsuit. Without harm, the plaintiff has no claim.
Simply being near asbestos does not automatically qualify individuals for legal action. They must suffer some type of measurable harm to pursue compensation. The defendant has nothing to compensate for if no tangible or measurable harm came to the plaintiff. However, if an individual recognizes that an employer’s negligence or failure to provide necessary safety equipment has exposed him or her to asbestos, these issues may constitute grounds for legal action or a report to federal oversight agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Statute of Limitations for Asbestos Exposure Claims
In an asbestos exposure case, the claimant will likely not notice any adverse symptoms until many years after the exposure. Mesothelioma is aggressive but it has a long latency period; many people who have taken legal action for mesothelioma did so years after the exposure that caused their conditions, sometimes more than a decade or even longer. However, the late discovery of mesothelioma does not disqualify an individual from taking legal action.
State courts generally acknowledge the rule of discovery that allows a plaintiff to bring a claim after discovering the harm done by another party. The discovery rule allows the statute of limitations to begin on the date a plaintiff discovered his or her harm instead of the date of initial exposure, which can be difficult if not impossible to pinpoint exactly after several years.
Many people with legal claims for mesothelioma file those claims several years following the asbestos exposure. For example, an employee sustained consistent asbestos exposure over several years while working for a certain employer. 15 years later he starts experiencing respiratory complications and his physician diagnoses him with mesothelioma. In this situation, the employee would have grounds for legal action against the employer that exposed him to asbestos during the course of his job duties.
Possible Compensation in an Asbestos Exposure Claim
A plaintiff with legitimate grounds for a lawsuit over asbestos exposure can potentially secure several types of compensation if he or she succeeds with the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s attorney will need to prove the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s damages, which can include a wide range of possible damage types.
- A plaintiff can win compensation for his or her immediate and future medical treatment necessary due to the defendant’s action. With a mesothelioma case, this could include cancer treatments and other rehabilitative or supportive treatments.
- Plaintiffs may also secure compensation for lost income if asbestos exposure caused them to miss work for an extended time. Some individuals may not be able to work due to mesothelioma and may qualify for compensation for lost future earnings.
- A mesothelioma diagnosis is life-changing. Plaintiffs can secure compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress caused by these diagnoses.
Depending on the circumstances of an asbestos exposure case, a defendant may also face punitive damages if the defendant attempted to conceal asbestos in a workplace or otherwise engaged in egregiously negligent or intentionally harmful behaviors that contributed to the plaintiff’s damages. Ultimately, anyone who sustains asbestos exposure should consult with a mesothelioma attorney in West Virginia.