Asbestos is a substance that manufacturers used to produce insulation and fire-resistant materials. From the early 1900s to the mid-1990s, many companies used asbestos and asbestos products in building projects and commercial products, unaware of the dangers asbestos poses. Asbestos fibers breathed into the lungs can embed in lung tissue, and, over time, this causes the manifestation of mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer.
One of the challenges facing individuals who contract mesothelioma is the long latency period asbestos particles can have before causing noticeable harm. An individual may inhale asbestos particles and not notice any damage for years, potentially making it difficult to positively identify the source of the exposure and pursue legal action against the responsible party.
Identifying Your Personal Risk Level
Although the dangers of asbestos are well-known today, many asbestos products still exist in homes and commercial buildings all over the country. Some high-risk industries require working with or near asbestos products, and employees of these industries must know how to address asbestos exposure. For example, the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center reports that about one million construction workers likely sustain some amount of asbestos exposure every year, and an estimated 125 million employees face exposure to asbestos at work each year.
More than half of all mesothelioma cases originate from workplace exposure. The federal government and most state governments have enacted clear legislation aimed at protecting workers in high-risk positions and providing them with grounds for legal recourse when they suffer asbestos-related medical complications.
If you are concerned about your possible asbestos exposure, first consider the most at-risk industries facing the highest levels of exposure.
- Construction work
- Shipyard work
- Automotive work
- Industrial positions
However, even office workers may develop mesothelioma if they work in an older building that still has asbestos in its structure as insulation or flame-resistant coating on certain surfaces. Plumbers, engineers, oil refinery workers, carpenters, and railroad workers also face significant risk of asbestos exposure.
Taking Legal Action
One of the most difficult aspects of any mesothelioma lawsuit is pinpointing the origin of the exposure. You may develop symptoms of mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure that occurred more than a decade ago, but that does not mean you do not have grounds for legal action. Most states uphold the discovery rule when it comes to the statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims. Therefore, the statute does not technically begin until the plaintiff positively identifies or discovers the harm involved in the situation.
If you developed mesothelioma and believe you know the cause, find the right West Virginia mesothelioma lawyer to handle your case. The statute of limitations starts as soon as you discover your condition, and an attorney can help you meet the statute of limitations and start building a strong case against the party responsible for your asbestos exposure.
Notify Your Employer
An employer that failed to address a known asbestos hazard in a workplace could face liability for resulting damages as well as legal penalties from federal oversight agencies. For example, if your employer failed to provide you with appropriate safety equipment before working in an area with high levels of asbestos, this would violate Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and likely result in fines and other penalties for the employer.
In addition to talking to an attorney, notify your employer if you believe your asbestos exposure occurred at work. This can help the employer identify high-risk areas of a workplace and possibly remove dangerous asbestos so it does not harm anyone else. Workers’ compensation benefits may be available, but accepting these benefits often requires surrendering your right to pursue additional legal action against your employer.