Is Anyone Aside from the Employer Liable for Occupational Exposure to Asbestos?
Workers who have been exposed to asbestos have the right to recover compensation for the correlated injuries. If you are one of the victims, bear in mind that your employer might not be the only one at fault. Here is a brief overview of the types of claims you can file.
Personal injury claimsThe most frequent claims that arise from injuries caused by asbestos exposure are called personal injury claims. These procedures entitle workers to sue their employees for the harmful effects of this substance, provided that exposure occurred on the job. This legal process allows current or ex-employees to recover compensation for their injuries. The amount they can get is linked to how severe the damage is.
If you discover that you suffer from an asbestos-related disease, the first thing you should do is contact a personal injury lawyer who's knowledgeable in the field of asbestos exposure. This specialist will evaluate your case and tell you how you should proceed in order to recover the maximum amount of compensation. Since asbestos diseases have a long latency period, it's not unusual to see people who sue against their ex-employers 30 or 40 years after the exposure occurred. The only legal limitation you've got in filing your claim is a deadline that runs from the date of diagnosis which is called the statute of limitations. This time limit varies from state to state, and it ranges from 1 to 3 years.
Typically, once the claim is filed, it can develop in two different ways; either by reaching an agreement with the other party and accepting the compensation they propose or by going through a court trial.
If the company you want to bring the claim against doesn't exist anymore because they filed for bankruptcy, you might have the chance to submit your request to an asbestos trust. Bankrupt companies had put aside money in these trusts precisely for the reimbursement of the people they exposed on the job. In fact, most asbestos claims are nowadays brought with the trusts since it's no longer possible to pursue the actual employee.
Worker's compensationWorker's compensation is a method of suing a direct employee for the personal injuries caused by asbestos exposure, on the job. Worker's compensation procedures are regulated by the laws of each state. They enable victims who suffer from work injuries to submit a request and benefit from aids like monetary compensation or medical assistance. To be able to access these benefits, employees must have a type of insurance coverage. This is necessary because the money that will be assigned for the injury comes from these private insurers.
Another requirement workers must meet is to be employed directly by the company that caused the exposure. This means that contractors, for example, don't qualify for this type of compensation.
Moreover, other parties that might hold a part of the blame, like asbestos products manufacturers are exempt from liability under these laws.
Also, keep in mind that if you opt for the worker's compensation, you can no longer sue the same company in court.
Product liability claimsAsbestos exposure occurs when the environment where a person works or lives contains asbestos. This usually happened in places like plants or site constructions where asbestos was used for its significant resistance and insulation capacity. But how exactly did the contamination occurred? Well, many products used by the people who worked in the industrial field contained asbestos. This substance was present in their work equipment, in the material that was used to build the factories, in their clothes, and eventually, it got into their lungs due to daily exposure. Here, asbestos causes a particular type of scarring and diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung cancer.
Coming back to the liability matter, asbestos products manufacturers were most probably aware of the dangers this substance poses. Nonetheless, they continued to sell those products, so they are also considered responsible for the correlated injuries. The law states that a company which manufactures products that are dangerous when they are appropriately used is liable for the damages that products might cause.
The type of claim that can be brought against these companies is called a product liability claim. This means that the person who presses charges has suffered an injury due to the use of a defective product.
Product liability claims can be brought against companies that produced asbestos products or safety equipment, but also against the suppliers who provided other companies with asbestos fibers.
Once again, don't forget that these companies can't be held liable under the worker's compensation laws. You can only bring a legal lawsuit against them.