During the 1930s, America experienced a construction boom, in which contractors began utilizing carcinogenic asbestos fibers to produce building materials, such as drywall, insulation, wiring, and ceiling tiles. It wasn’t until decades later that doctors discovered a link between an aggressive and deadly cancer known as mesothelioma to asbestos exposure. As a result of these findings, most companies stopped using products manufactured with asbestos, but cases continue to crop up amongst generations of older individuals who live in the buildings constructed with asbestos filled products or who worked in the construction industry.
One of the most dangerous aspects of asbestos exposure is that it can take decades before symptoms begin to manifest, making it much more difficult and expensive to treat, so if you believe that you or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos and are now suffering from health complications, it is vital to retains the services of an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer who can help you obtain compensation for the losses you have suffered.
The people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma most often are those who worked closely with asbestos-containing materials or lived in buildings where these materials were used. This can include contractors, electricians, roofers, and other people employed in the construction industry as well as homeowners who:
- Were employed by an asbestos mine or chemical plant;
- Were employed by businesses involved in construction or automobile assembly;
- Served on a military ship or worked in a shipyard;
- Lived in residences where asbestos-containing products were used in its construction;
- Lived near an asbestos mine; or
- Disturbed existing asbestos products during remodeling or renovation of a building.
Exposure occurs through the inhalation of raw asbestos. Once the toxins have been breathed in, it is very difficult for the body to rid itself of the jagged fibers, which in turn, begin to build up in the lining of the stomach or lungs. After years, the fibers begin to cause inflammation and even scarring in the membranes surrounding the heart, lungs, and abdomen, destroying its protective capabilities and allowing cancer cells to divide and spread throughout the body.
Direct exposure is not the only way to come into contact with these dangerous fibers. Many family members of mine workers or contractors were exposed to the fibers secondarily when their loved one unknowingly brought fibers home on their clothing, tools, hair, and person. Because asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, people who knowingly or unknowingly lived near deposits or mines where asbestos was located are also often diagnosed with mesothelioma.
One of the most dangerous aspects of mesothelioma is that it can go undiagnosed for decades, allowing the cancer to spread unchecked. However, there are some symptoms that, if noticed early enough, can help victims halt the disease’s progress at an earlier stage, including:
- Persistent coughing;
- Pain or tightening in the chest and lungs;
- Swelling of the neck or face;
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing;
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Pain in the abdominal region;
- Fever; and
- Bloating or lumps in the abdomen.
Even when it’s caught earlier, mesothelioma can still be extremely difficult to treat and may require years of painful chemotherapy and radiation treatments. However, the earlier victims are made aware of the problem, the better chance they have of making a full recovery in time.
To help deal with the repercussions of asbestos exposure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established a set of regulations for monitoring and preventing exposure to toxins in the workplace. This means that employers whose employees must be exposed to asbestos are required to take specific safety precautions, including:
- Providing training on proper handling of toxic substances, such as asbestos;
- Ensuring that all work areas are properly ventilated;
- Monitoring asbestos exposure levels on a regular basis;
- Creating and mounting warning signs around the workplace;
- Supplying and requiring employees to use protective clothing, such as goggles, gloves, and face shields;
- Ensuring that employees have access to respirators;
- Creating a plan for incidences of high exposure; and
- Requiring employees who are exposed to dangerous levels of toxins to undergo regular medical examinations.
If an employer fails to adhere to these regulations and so risks the health of his or her employees, he or she can face liability if an employee later develops cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also banned all new uses of asbestos in construction.
Victims of asbestos exposure may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of future income from a variety of individuals including:
- The company, or its insurer, that manufactured or installed the asbestos.
- The manufacturer of protective equipment that failed to work as expected;
- The property owner where a victim was exposed to asbestos; and
- Contractors and subcontractors who used materials containing asbestos for building.
Many of the companies who manufactured asbestos-containing products have been out of business for decades. Fortunately, victims can still collect compensation from a specific trust fund that was established for that purpose.
Court claims can be extremely time-consuming, expensive, and stressful, so in most cases, the parties involved attempt to reach a settlement before proceeding to trial. The award amounts, however, vary depending on a series of factors, including:
- The severity of the victim’s diagnosis;
- The cost of treatment and medical expenses;
- The extent of lost wages;
- The pain and suffering endured by the victim;
- The amount of money the victim could have earned in the future, but for his or her diagnosis;
- Whether the family owes any unpaid bills related to the diagnosis; and
- Whether the victim cares for any dependents.
If a settlement cannot be reached, a court will also take these factors into consideration when determining a monetary award.
Contact a Dedicated Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney
Mesothelioma is an especially painful and deadly disease, so if you or a loved one live in Atlanta and were recently diagnosed with cancer as a result of toxic exposure, please contact the law firm of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. by submitting one of our standard contact forms and a member of our legal team will assist you in setting up a free consultation with a skilled Atlanta personal injury lawyer.