To file an asbestos lawsuit, two things are required: a confirmed diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness like asbestosis or mesothelioma and a history of past exposure to asbestos. In most cases, that exposure is occupational in nature—meaning that it occurred while the victim was working with or near asbestos-containing products. In other cases, it may have come secondhand, through contact with an occupational exposure victim or when living in a building constructed with asbestos-made construction materials.
An asbestos lawsuit must be filed in a timely manner—more specifically, within the timeframe of your state’s respective limitation statutes—and with the correct courts. Retaining counsel through an experienced asbestos attorney is necessary for making such determinations, as well as for drafting and filing the claim itself. An attorney will also prepare a solid and well-evidenced case on the claimant’s behalf. And in most cases, he or she will try to negotiate a favorable settlement with the defendant(s) named in the original claim.
Mesothelioma—An Asbestos-Linked Killer
The majority of litigants in high-profile asbestos lawsuits have been diagnosed with mesothelioma—a terminal form of cancer that is caused by exposure asbestos in about 80-90 percent of all victims.
Mesothelioma cancer can affect any of four organs within the body: the lungs, stomach, heart or—in the rarest of cases—the male testicles. More precisely, mesothelioma occurs in the actual lining of those organs—a protective, film-like barrier called the mesothelium.
Mesothelioma accounts for just under a third of all asbestos-related conditions that are diagnosed in Americans each year but is arguably the most notorious and well recognized of those conditions. This is a fact most likely attributable to the fact that it is exceptionally tricky to diagnose, extremely difficult to treat and invariably fatal to anyone affected.
Asbestosis—A Serious but Less Common Condition
Another potential basis for filing an asbestos lawsuit is a diagnosis of asbestosis. This particular diagnosis is generally given a prognosis that is considerably more favorable than a mesothelioma prognosis—but it can also be fatal. In the five-year span between 1999 and 2004, asbestosis killed more than 3000 Americans who had experienced its exclusive cause—exposure to asbestos. To put that number in perspective, mesothelioma kills about the same number of Americans each and every year.
Like pleural mesothelioma, asbestosis is caused by scarring that occurs in the lung region after the inhalation of dangerous asbestos fibers. Also like mesothelioma, asbestosis usually takes many years to develop.
There are widely varying degrees of asbestosis severity, which are directly connected with the amount and frequency of past asbestos exposure. In very mild cases, symptoms may be hardly noticeable. In severe instances, breathing difficulty can be so pronounced as to necessitate the use of supplemental oxygen therapy. Asbestosis is a chronic disease for which there is no cure, and it can ultimately lead to acute failure of the lungs and the heart.