Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the lining of the stomach, lungs, or heart. The cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, our legal team has years of personal injury experience helping victims who’ve been negligently exposed to deadly asbestos. A dedicated West Virginia mesothelioma attorney at our firm can help you if you or a loved one was improperly exposed. Exposure to asbestos may occur in a number of ways, including:
- Working in an asbestos work environment, such as an asbestos mine or asbestos production facility
- Living in proximity to an asbestos mine
- Breathing air containing asbestos particles
- Working in the construction industry
- Remodeling homes that were built with asbestos
- Working without proper breathing and ventilation safety methods
- Other related areas
Repeated exposure to asbestos can result in the accumulation of microscopic asbestos fibers. When these fibers build up in the mesothelium lining of the lungs, heart, stomach or other organs, cancerous tumors may occur. Mesothelioma is a horrible and painful disease that weakens and destroys the body. If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income and other damages. It is advisable to obtain a legal consultation with an experienced Charleston, WV injury lawyer to review the circumstances of your case. Once this information is reviewed, a determination may be made how to proceed.
Around 125 million people have suffered exposure to asbestos in the workplace. Every year, 2,000 to 3,000 more people find out they have mesothelioma. Most of these cases are malignant, or cancerous. From 1999 to 2015, 45,221 people died from mesothelioma. In West Virginia, 432 people died over the same time. West Virginia has a higher than average mesothelioma fatality rate compared to other states, of 14 people per million each year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified Hancock and Wood counties in West Virginia among the top 50 counties in the U.S. with high mesothelioma mortality rates. These counties have rates of 39 and 25 deaths per million, respectively. Coal mining, power plants, manufacturing facilities, and oil refineries can all put West Virginians at risk of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. Fike Chemical Inc. and West Virginia Ordnance are two worksites currently on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list for possible asbestos contamination.
Types of Mesothelioma and the Associated Symptoms
Almost 3,000 individuals are diagnosed every year with a form of mesothelioma. The different forms include:
- Pleural mesothelioma – the most common form of mesothelioma, affects up to ¾ of all malignant mesothelioma cases. This affects the linings of the lungs, causing irritation, fluid retention, and pain as it develops.
- Symptoms include: breathing problems, hoarseness, chest pain, coughing, hacking, and/or wheezing
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – affects the stomach lining and ranks second, after pleural mesothelioma, in terms of malignant tumor growth
- Symptoms include: stomach and abdominal pain, nausea, change in appetite, bowel problems, swelling, and/or weight loss
- Pericardial mesothelioma – rarest form, tumors grow in the pericardium, a heart membrane
- Symptoms are not obvious until later stages of development of pericardial mesothelioma, but include: chest pain, fatigue, heartbeat irregularities, and/or respiratory problems
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos fibers accumulate and create disturbances in the body. Patients may be exposed to asbestos through work or through breathing asbestos fibers in the home. If you believe you were negligently exposed to asbestos and have since developed mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and will benefit from speaking with a seasoned mesothelioma attorney in Charleston, West Virginia.
Mesothelioma Risk Factors
The main risk factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring silicone that is strong and resistant to heat. Because of these properties, it was commonly used in housing and industrial applications from the 1940s to the 1980s. When asbestos breaks, however, it releases dust that settles in the lungs. Over time, it may develop into mesothelioma.
One of the troubling things about the cancer is it takes 20 to 40 years to develop after asbestos exposure. Risk varies greatly from person to person: many people have years of exposure to asbestos, and never develop mesothelioma. Others with brief exposure, on the other hand, may develop the disease. This suggests that your risk for developing mesothelioma is dependent on a number of other factors, such as genetic predisposition and family history.
What Products Contain Asbestos?
Although the United States banned the use of asbestos in consumer goods in 1979, many products and buildings built before this date may still contain the substance. Other consumer goods on shelves today might accidentally contain trace amounts of asbestos, such as talcum powder products. Talcum powder and asbestos often share mines, making contamination a possibility. Other asbestos-containing products include:
- Automotive parts
- Cosmetic items
- Ductwork and insulation
- Electrical components
- Fireproofing and flame-retardant materials
- Floor, roof, and ceiling tiles
- Fume hoods
- Vinyl items
Manufacturers widely used asbestos prior to the ban because of its unique fireproofing properties, as well as its flexibility, durability, and affordability. The construction and manufacturing industries utilized asbestos the most heavily. Knowing what products used to contain and may still contain asbestos can help you reduce your risk of exposure. It can also help you find out if contact with an item or object may have exposed you to this harmful material.
What to Do If Exposed to Asbestos at Work
The workplace is a common setting for harmful asbestos exposure. If you previously worked in industries that often deal with or encounter asbestos, such as construction, you’re at a higher than normal risk of exposure. All workplaces owe employees a duty to prevent asbestos exposure through measures such as testing materials for the minerals and providing special safety training and equipment. Yet year after year, hundreds of employees suffer harmful exposure to asbestos. If you think you’ve faced exposure in the past, follow these steps:
- File a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation could result in payment for your mesothelioma-related medical bills, disabilities, and partial lost wages. Note, however, that you cannot settle with workers’ compensation and file a claim against your employer. If exposure was your employer’s fault, contact a West Virginia mesothelioma lawyer before agreeing to a workers’ comp settlement.
- Go to the doctor. Always have regular checkups with a primary care doctor if you worked in an industry with potential exposures to harmful substances. Talk to your doctor about possible asbestos exposure in your past. Tests can help determine if you did, in fact, ingest particles. Keep copies of all your medical records, diagnoses, and treatments.
- Tell the authorities. If you find out that asbestos exposure did put you at risk, file a safety complaint with an organization such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It’s important to notify others of where you believe you suffered the exposure. Filing a complaint could prevent others from the same fate, or let previous coworkers know to see doctors.
After these steps, contact Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, to talk to West Virginia mesothelioma lawyers in West Virginia. Our attorneys will investigate your workplace for signs of asbestos-containing materials. Then, we can inform you of your rights in terms of bringing a lawsuit and/or workers’ compensation claim against your employer. If your employer was negligent in allowing the exposure to happen, it could be liable for damages.
How Common Is Mesothelioma?
The good news is mesothelioma is relatively rare. About 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, and the numbers seem to be decreasing slightly. While the number of new cases increased from the 1970s to the early 1990s, the rates have leveled off and decreased ever since. This is likely due to changes in workplace exposure to asbestos. In many other countries outside of the United States, the rate of mesothelioma is still increasing.
How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of mesothelioma, visit your doctor. They will perform a physical examination, paying attention to any lumps under your skin. They may order X-rays or a CT scan to look at abnormalities and perform a biopsy to diagnose or rule out mesothelioma.
If your biopsy returns positive, the next step is to determine the extent of your cancer, a process called staging:
- Stage I means the cancer is localized.
- Stage II means it may have spread beyond the lining of the chest to a lung or the diaphragm.
- Stage III may have spread to other areas of the chest or lymph nodes.
- Stage IV cancer is advanced and means it has spread extensively throughout the chest and may even involve the brain, liver, and lymph nodes.
Treatment for Mesothelioma
Treating mesothelioma depends on the cancer’s stage. Your doctor will talk to you about your available options, which may include surgery to control fluid buildup, chemotherapy, and radiation. Since mesothelioma is so difficult to treat, the primary goal of your treatment will be comfort and symptom control, rather than a cure.
How to Prevent Mesothelioma
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prevent mesothelioma. For example, find out if you work around asbestos – factory workers, miners, and construction workers are at the highest risk. Always follow your employer’s safety regulations and wear protective equipment on the job.
If you live in an older home or building, you may have asbestos in your building materials. Oftentimes, it’s better to leave it alone than remove it. If you suspect you have asbestos in your home, talk to the Environmental Protection Agency about remediation.
Mesothelioma Lawsuit Timeline
Sadly, patients with mesothelioma don’t have the luxury of thinking too far into the future. Although modern treatments and surgeries can extend the expected lifespan and increase survival rates, most patients with malignant mesothelioma have life expectancies between 12 and 21 months, depending on the cancer stage at diagnosis. Those with mesothelioma and their loved ones may wonder how long a lawsuit might take – and if it’s worth their time.
While every case is unique, a typical lawsuit takes two to three years from the initial development of the case to the final settlement or trial verdict. Your lawsuit will start with the gathering of information and case development, and then to the filing of an official claim against an employer, product manufacturer, and/or another party. Then you and your West Virginia mesothelioma attorney will gather evidence during the discovery phase, negotiate a settlement, and prepare for trial, if necessary. Legal processes often come with set dates that plaintiffs must follow.
Mesothelioma Statute of Limitations in West Virginia
One rule you do not want to break during your mesothelioma lawsuit is the deadline for filing your claim. The deadline, or statute of limitations, is strict and has very few exceptions. Missing your deadline almost certainly means the court will reject your case and you’ll lose the right to compensation. The deadline is different from state to state. In West Virginia, you have two years from the date of your mesothelioma diagnosis to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim.
How to Find a Mesothelioma Lawyer
Finding a great mesothelioma attorney in West Virginia is about more than just who can secure you compensation. Almost all patients with mesothelioma win monetary damages if they take their claims to court. Instead, finding your lawyer is about choosing the firm that can handle your case with skill, care, and the personal touch you deserve.
Mesothelioma cases are a special niche in personal injury law. Look for a lawyer who specializes in mesothelioma and asbestos claims, not just in general personal injury. Your case could get complex. Having an experienced attorney in your corner can make a big difference in the timeline of your lawsuit as well as the amount of compensation you receive.
To find the right mesothelioma lawyer, ask former colleagues who may have also received mesothelioma diagnoses from exposure in your workplace. They might have already filed lawsuits or retained attorneys. Research lawyers and look for positive testimonials and proven case results. Check the lawyer’s references, schedule a consult to meet the attorney in person, and find out how the firm handles costs. Never pay upfront for a mesothelioma attorney.
Compensation for Mesothelioma Victims in West Virginia
Do not worry if the employer that exposed you to asbestos 20 or 40 years ago went out of business or is bankrupt. The U.S. government has made accommodations for cases such as these. If your employer cannot pay for a mesothelioma settlement or verdict, your compensation will come from one of many existing mesothelioma trusts. Every year, asbestos trust funds give billions of dollars in payouts for victims of mesothelioma. The average payout for a single claim is around $41,000.
As a victim of mesothelioma, you deserve fair compensation for your financial, physical, and emotional damages. Workers’ compensation, a personal injury lawsuit, and financial assistance specifically for those with mesothelioma can provide payment for your illness-related medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. A West Virginia mesothelioma attorney at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, can help you maximize your compensation award through aggressive legal representation
Exposed to Asbestos? Call a West Virginia Mesothelioma Lawyer
Exposure to asbestos can lead to catastrophic, life-altering complications. It is advisable to review the circumstances of your case with an experienced West Virginia mesothelioma attorney. If there is reason to believe that your mesothelioma was caused by another’s negligence, compensation may be sought in a personal injury lawsuit. If a loved one lost their life from mesothelioma, close relatives may seek compensation in a wrongful injury lawsuit. Tiano O’Dell, PLLC is a highly successful, plaintiff’s rights personal injury law firm based in Charleston, WV.
At our law firm, we believe negligent parties should be held accountable for their actions and injured clients should receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries. There are no legal fees unless we obtain a satisfactory settlement or court award. To schedule your free consultation with a West Virginia injury attorney, contact us at (304) 720-6700.